The "Resign for Diversity" campaign
In a recent article announcing his resignation as a tenured faculty member, Jordan Peterson chastised his fellow academics for capitulating to the DIE agenda (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity). And he didn’t mince words:
All my craven colleagues must craft DIE statements to obtain a research grant. They all lie (excepting the minority of true believers) and they teach their students to do the same. And they do it constantly, with various rationalizations and justifications, further corrupting what is already a stunningly corrupt enterprise.
And all of you going along with the DIE activists, whatever your reasons: this is on you. Professors. Cowering cravenly in pretence and silence. Teaching your students to dissimulate and lie. To get along. As the walls crumble. For shame.
It’s hard to disagree with this. A large part of the blame for the encroachment of woke activism in academia has to be placed on those academics who go along with it publicly, despite opposing it in private. This is called being a coward. Why on earth did you become a scholar if not to state the truth as you see it?
Of course, most of the blame must be placed on the activists themselves. But if you go along with something by obediently paying lip-service to its core tenets, you’re no longer an innocent bystander. You become an active participant. Someone with principles would refuse to write diversity statements, to remove content from the curriculum, or to serve on committees that practice affirmative action.
On the other hand, it’s not always easy to speak out when you’re just getting started in your career, or you have a family to support. At the end of the day, most people look out for number one. So faced with the choice between resisting DIE and getting ahead in the workplace, they’ll opt for the latter nine times out of ten. For this reason, shaming them probably isn’t going to make much difference. (We should still do it though.)
Is there anything else we can do, which might prove more expedient? Yes: we can turn our attention to the white academics promoting DIE, and then hold their feet to the fire. What we need is a “Resign for Diversity” campaign.
I floated the idea in May of last year in a tweet that ended up going viral (see above). Combined with a particularly witty reply from someone named Paul Godburn, this tweet became a meme (see below), and was shared dozens of times over the next few days. Unfortunately, the person who created said meme – I’ve no idea who that was – misspelled the word ‘diversity’. If you want to recreate the meme with ‘diversity’ spelled correctly, feel free to do so.
The logic of the “Resign for Diversity” campaign is laid out in a paper I published last year in the journal Academic Questions. This paper essentially applies to the case of “diversity” the argument that G.A. Cohen made in his famous essay, ‘If you’re an egalitarian, how come you’re so rich?’ It therefore asks of white (and Asian) academics, “If you’re in favor of more “diversity”, how come you haven’t resigned?”
For those who aren’t aware, G.A. Cohen was a Marxist philosopher, and his essay to which I just referred deals with what he saw as the inconsistency of some of his fellow egalitarians. As Cohen notes, “Many people, including many egalitarian political philosophers, profess a belief in equality while enjoying high incomes of which they devote very little to egalitarian purposes.”
I’d recommend reading my own paper in full. It isn’t very long, and there’s no paywall. The paper begins by supplying evidence that many white academics do indeed support more “diversity” in their profession. It then explains why such academics have an obligation to resign, before addressing a number of potential objections. Here’s the conclusion:
Any academic from an overrepresented group who advocates more “diversity” is directly contributing to the lack of “diversity” by remaining in his position. Assuming the number of jobs is relatively fixed, such an individual is effectively saying, “I want the percentage of academics who have the same demographic characteristics as me to go down, but I am not willing to give up my job in order to achieve that goal. Rather, I want other academics with those demographic characteristics to give up their jobs, or to lose job opportunities.” Needless to say, this is not a principled stance.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how absurd it is for a white academic to say, “We must have more diversity”, while remaining in his position. This would be like standing next to a beggar with a wad of cash, telling him, “I wish you had more money”, and then refusing to hand anything over. Defending meritocracy, by contrast, is perfectly consistent with remaining in one’s position, since each academic presumably believes that he was selected on merit.
The reason I believe a “Resign for Diversity” campaign could make a tangible difference – in terms of defanging DIE – is that it would put pressure on many senior decision-makers, who wield disproportionate influence over things like hiring and funding. (For a variety of reasons, such individuals are disproportionately white.) It would give such individuals an ultimatum: either put up or shut up. If you can’t explain why you haven’t resigned, then don’t expect others to partake in this foolish “diversity” charade.
The goal wouldn’t be to encourage mass resignations; since most people look out for themselves, we shouldn’t expect many to actually resign. Rather, it would be to “get the incentives right” – to internalise the externality of advocating “diversity”. At the moment, white academics who have jobs can go along happily, waxing lyrical about “diversity”, while white academics who don’t have jobs bear the consequences. If those incumbents were pressured to resign, they might start to rethink their ideology.
As Upton Sinclair quipped, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” So if we want white academics to understand that DIE is dangerous, we ought to make their salaries depend on it.
Of course, a “Resign for Diversity” campaign wouldn’t deal with every aspect of DIE. For example, it wouldn’t counteract the oft-heard demands to “decolonise” one’s curriculum. And in fact, it might exacerbate such demands by causing white academics to shift their activism away from “diversity” hiring toward other kinds of woke activism. Nonetheless, it would confront head on what is arguably the most egregious part of the DIE project.
So the next time you see a white or Asian academic self-righteously calling for more “diversity”, politely ask him, “If you’re in favour of more “diversity”, how come you haven’t resigned?”
Note: none of this should be taken to imply that I’m against non-white academics being hired. The point is to oppose people being hired on the basis of “diversity”, which roughly speaking, means “the percentage of people who aren’t white males”. (Though in an academic context, it increasingly means “the percentage of people who aren’t white or Asian males”.) Like most people up until a few years ago, I support meritocracy.
Image: Gage Skidmore, Jordan Peterson, 2018
Thanks for reading. If you found this newsletter useful, please share it with your friends. And please consider subscribing if you haven’t done so already.