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Monday, February 05, 2018

Hard Truths About Race on Campus

Hard Truths About Race on Campus - WSJ
By Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim

"The president of Yale pledged to spend $50 million to increase faculty diversity and to satisfy other demands. The president of Brown pledged $100 million for diversity training and other steps to create a more “just and inclusive campus.”...

The existing research literature suggests that such reforms will fail to achieve their stated aims of reducing discrimination and inequality. In fact, we think that they are likely to damage race relations and to make campus life more uncomfortable for everyone, particularly black students.

A basic principle of psychology is that people pay more attention to information that predicts important outcomes in their lives. A key social factor that we human beings track is who is “us” and who is “them.” In classic studies, researchers divided people into groups based on arbitrary factors such as a coin toss. They found that, even with such trivial distinctions, people discriminated in favor of their in-group members...

If you set things up so that race conveys less important information than some other salient factor, then people pay less attention to race.

A second principle of psychology is the power of cooperation. When groups face a common threat or challenge, it tends to dissolve enmity and create a mind-set of “one for all, all for one.” Conversely, when groups are put into competition with each other, people readily shift into zero-sum thinking and hostility...

Many students spend four years in a social environment where race conveys useful information about the academic capacity of their peers. People notice useful social cues, and one of the strongest causes of stereotypes is exposure to real group differences. If a school commits to doubling the number of black students, it will have to reach deeper into its pool of black applicants, admitting those with weaker qualifications, particularly if most other schools are doing the same thing. This is likely to make racial gaps larger, which would strengthen the negative stereotypes that students of color find when they arrive on campus.

And racial gaps in classroom performance create other problems. A 2013 study by the economist Peter Arcidiacono of Duke University found that students tend to befriend those who are similar to themselves in academic achievement. This is a big contributor to the patterns of racial and ethnic self-segregation visible on many campuses. If a school increases its affirmative-action efforts in ways that expand these gaps, it is likely to end up with more self-segregation and fewer cross-race friendships, and therefore with even stronger feelings of alienation among black students.

Another common student demand is to commit money to programs and departments devoted to specific ethnic or identity groups...

For black, Asian and Latino students, “membership in ethnically oriented student organizations actually increased the perception that ethnic groups are locked into zero-sum competition with one another and the feeling of victimization by virtue of one’s ethnicity.” The authors also examined the effect on white students of joining fraternities and sororities and found similar effects, including an increased sense of ethnic victimization and opposition to intergroup dating...

Might the negative effects of these policies be counteracted by diversity training? We don’t know. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that corporations and universities spend on them each year, such programs “have never been evaluated with experimental methods,” as a comprehensive 2009 study in the Annual Review of Psychology concluded.

The evaluations that have been done are not encouraging. A major 2007 review of diversity training in corporations concluded that “on average, programs designed to reduce bias among managers responsible for hiring and promotion have not worked.” A review of diversity interventions published in 2014 in the journal Science noted that these programs “often induce ironic negative effects (such as reactance or backlash) by implying that participants are at fault for current diversity challenges.”...

Microaggression training is likely to backfire and increase racial tensions. The term itself encourages moralistic responses to actions that are often unintentional and sometimes even well-meaning. Once something is labeled an act of aggression, it activates an oppressor-victim narrative, which calls out to members of the aggrieved group to rally around the victim. As the threshold for what counts as an offense falls ever lower, cross-racial interactions become more dangerous, and conflict increases...

How would your behavior change if anything you said could be misinterpreted, taken out of context and then reported—anonymously and with no verification—to a central authority with the power to punish you? Wouldn’t faculty and students of all races grow more anxious and guarded whenever students from other backgrounds were present?

Interracial contact can yield many benefits. In a review of more than 500 studies, published in 2006 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Thomas Pettigrew and Linda Tropp concluded that when people of different races and ethnicities mix together and get to know each other, the effect is generally to reduce prejudice on all sides. This is a good justification for increasing diversity... The benefits disappear when there is anxiety about cross-group interactions...

In their book “All That We Can Be” (1996), the sociologists Charles Moskos and John Sibley Butler describe how the U.S. Army escaped from the racial dysfunction of the 1970s to become a model of integration and near-equality by the time of the 1991 Gulf War. The Army invested more resources in training and mentoring black soldiers so that they could meet rigorous promotion standards. But, crucially, standards were lowered for no one, so that the race of officers conveyed no information about their abilities. The Army also promoted cooperation and positive-sum thinking by emphasizing pride in the Army and in America...

As Martin Luther King Jr., put it in 1957: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

The policies and programs that universities have pursued over the past half-century don’t seem to be working, at least as judged by the recent campus unrest, so reflexively expanding them probably isn’t the answer"


Of course, if you want to stoke identity politics tensions to get more power or resources, diversity initiatives that worsen the problem are a good thing.


Hard Truths and Half-Truths about Race on Campus, Part II
(A response to a response to the above)

"Their claim that we ignored stereotype threat is completely true. This is because stereotype threat is: 1. Not only not well-documented, it is widely misrepresented and misinterpreted; 3. Irrelevant even if it was well-documented...

STEREOTYPE THREAT HAS NEVER SHOWED THAT "REMOVE THREAT AND B=W TEST SCORES"...

Stereotype threat proponents have now backed off from their once common claims that stereotype threat fully accounts for Black/White achievement differences. For example, summarizing their meta-analysis of stereotype threat, Walton, Spencer, & Erman (2013) (link is external) wrote: “The estimates suggest that psychological threat accounts for … 17–28% of the White/Black gap on the SAT.”

But whether stereotype threat is even a 17-28% piece in the puzzle is not clear to many scientists outside of an inner circle of advocates and enthusiasts. Skeptical reviews of the stereotype threat literature question whether the phenomenon actually even exists, and suggest that, if it does, its overall effects are quite small (Flore & Wichert, 2012 (link is external); Stoets & Geary, 2012 (link is external)). Furthermore, some large scale failures to replicate have also been published (link is external). Stereotype threat is "well-established" among its most evangelical advocates, but is controversial in the wider scientific community...

C&M-P also make the stunning claim that: “differences in test scores have little to do with ability or qualifications…”

This is out of touch with the science. The predictive validity of standardized tests is one of the most well-established findings in all of psychology"


Hard Truths and Half-Truths about Race on Campus, Part III

"This reveals the type of weaponization of microaggression and diversity training that we consider so dysfunctional. We are calling for a great walking back of the shouting and self-righteousness – most of which is on the part of the protestors, and some of which is on the part of our illiberal colleagues. Despite the fact that protestors have made holding nonleftist views unsafe for expression through disinvitations, disruptions, and accusations of bigotry for imaginary transgressions (link is external), the College Republicans are not usually calling for "safe spaces" and anti-microaggression training. Given the blatant hostility (link is external) to nonleftist views perspectives on many campuses -- nothing "micro" about it -- they would have more cause for doing so than do many of the protestors. The radical academic left’s coddling (link is external) has also led to massive concept creep (link is external)of notions such as microaggressions and cultural appropriation (i.e., ever-expanding beliefs about what constitutes harm). This has created the current environment of hypersensitivity to nonexistent and imagined slights that include such absurdities as protesting yoga classes (link is external) and Halloween costumes (link is external), characterizing cafeteria food as racist (link is external)if it has the wrong ingredients, and characterizing opposition to feminism and affirmative action (link is external) and support for Donald Trump (link is external)as micro- or even macroaggressions. Students now routinely complain of being "violated" when they hear views or observe practices that they simply do not like or disagree with. At Yale, some support repealing the First Amendment (link is external), because free speech is inconsistent with social justice.

This is disturbing stuff. One of the most vile features of the Stalinist Soviet Union was that one could never tell who would “inform” on you (link is external). Friends turned in friends; children and parents turned in one another. Combine some of the crazy things that students are claiming to be “victimized” by, (link is external) with an anonymous “reporting” system (as advocated by C&M-P), and it is hard to not to see an erosion of support for fundamental democratic and academic principles and freedoms. Although the sanctions stop short of being sent to a gulag, they are serious enough that a prominent feminist has been subjected to what she has called “My Title IX Inquisition (link is external),” students have been suspended (link is external)for controversial statements, and now tenure may not be awarded (link is external) to faculty who are deemed insufficiently sensitive to diversity.

But back to forgiveness. How many 19 year old sophomores have engaged in behavior so racist it requires someone to actually forgive them? I suspect vanishingly few. When they have, they should acknowledge their transgressions before asking for forgiveness. But do we really want to presume that most students, simply because they are members in some so-called “privileged”** category, are guilty of racial transgressions that warrant forgiveness?

** There is hardly anyone left as unambiguously "privileged." The list of victimized groups is now so large – including but not restricted to women, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, Arabs, immigrants, gays, lesbians, transgendered people, people with disabilities, elderly people, single people, those from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds, and those who are overweight – that about 95% of Americans, by this standard, are now “victims.” Concept creep indeed...

Discussing race is important. Self-righteousness, Soviet style punitive “informant” schemes, and mandatory diversity “training,” however, are more likely to stifle than promote such discussions. If one has any doubt, please view this debate held at Yale (link is external), where, despite entering with skepticism, about 2/3 of those attending ended up convinced the current campus protests constitute a serious threat to free speech"
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