by James A. Bacon
As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors gears up for a discussion of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at its June board meeting, President Jim Ryan has made the case for a kinder, gentler DEI in an essay recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Forgoing the rhetoric of “anti-racism” theorists such as Ibram X. Kendi, Ryan argues that DEI is misunderstood. There is no talk in the essay about “white supremacy,” “white privilege,” “structural racism” or other leftist buzzwords.
Indeed, Ryan argues that the most contentious element of DEI — equity — does not mean striving for equal outcomes, as many conservatives say it does. Sounding very much like Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, Ryan contends that “equity” really means equal “opportunity.” Unlike Youngkin, who renamed the state’s office of DEI to the office of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion, however, Ryan is satisfied to retain the equity label and redefine it in more benign terms.
The tone in Ryan’s essay is moderate and reasonable. Political conservatives and moderates would not find much to argue with. The problem is that the words are largely divorced from reality. One is driven to conclude either that UVa’s president, insulated by layer upon layer of management, does not know what is occurring at the institution he leads or, worse, he does know and he is doing his best to obscure it. Continue reading