Don’t demand to know what these words mean. Just accept that EDI programs are assigned three prima facie laudable objectives: equity, diversity, and inclusion. Let’s look at each in turn from this particular stakeholder’s perspective, a perspective shared, I suspect, by those of you of the same ilk.
I’m a long-since-tenured professor, so vis a vis hiring I have no personal skin in the game. Maybe would-be students in wheelchairs should be provided ramps, but I’m responsible for teaching those who make it to class, regardless of how they got there. Things might be different were I being paid instead to teach remedial English, but as it stands a student will likely fail my class if she can’t put a sentence together, regardless of the educational injustices that might account for that inability. So equity considerations aren’t so much above my pay grade as they are before it. In short, equity is not my problem.
Four of my six colleagues are on the cusp of retirement, and neither now nor in the foreseeable future is our revenue-strapped dean about to replace them. But if he were, and were I on the hiring committee, given a choice between diversity of skin colour and diversity of expertise, I’d opt for the latter. And I’d do so even if that meant hiring yet another white male, and after that yet another, and then another after that. This is because, at least in philosophy – and the diversity rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding – there’s no correlation between skin colour and expertise.
Well, actually there is. Keeping in mind that hiring committees are operating under two-dimensional uncertainty, and given the history of my discipline, were I offered a choice between a white male and an indigenous female, the smart money would go to hiring the former. This is not to deny we might expect greater perspectival diversity from the latter. But then again, we might expect even greater perspectival diversity from a thrice-convicted pedophile, or better yet, an illiterate goat herder.
Analytic philosophy is a ‘discipline’ precisely because it rejects certain perspectives. Like any other discipline, it has its own vocabulary, its own ‘rules’ of inference, and so on. Any indigenous woman who’d like to join in this historically white man’s game would be more than welcome. As would she be if she wants to play a different game. But if she’s playing a different game – say, for example, indigenous ways of knowing – assign her to whatever discipline might be able to accommodate her playing that game.
Moreover – and as with pretty much any discipline – philosophical labour requires collegiality, collegiality hangs on social trust, and, as Mark Hecht has notoriously but rightly argued, social trust hangs, in considerable measure, on commonality of language, culture, and values.
Proponents of EDI don’t deny this. They just think that with diversity of language, culture, and values, this social trust will evolve in time. Perhaps. But not unlike so many other contretemps, this ‘investment’ argument generates a split between stakeholders who have the time, and those who don’t.
But to suppose that analytic philosophy will recover from this affirmative action investment program is worse than risky. Once we lose the canon in the professoriate it’s lost to their students, then to theirs, to theirs, and so on. In some Departments, which shall remain unnamed, it’s already happened. During the so-called Dark Ages it fell to a cadre of Irish monks to rescue the canon from oblivion. Are there enough of us left to rescue it from the pitchforks and torches of the current Woke Inquisition? Too early to tell. And at my age, probably too late to be told.
The latest student recruitment mantra is “You belong here!”, which is to be contrasted with the Woke Inquisition’s “And you don’t!” As Tony Hall found out, you don’t belong at the University of Lethbridge if, as an historian, you think every historical episode, including the Holocaust, is open to re-examination. As Frances Widdowson more recently found out, you don’t belong at Mount Royal University if, as a policy analyst, you think government policy infantilises indigenous peoples, or that there are no “special ways of knowing”. And so on.
To be fair, which views belong and which don’t has always been buffeted this way and that with the alacrity of the weather. At one time most of our universities were seminaries. No Jews here. Under fascism in Germany, and communism in Russia and the Far East, they were prep schools for political commissars. So there’s nothing new in so-called cancel culture. The Halls and the Widdowsons and the Viminati are just whining because this time it’s our turn.
We certainly want to claim that we belong here. But can we really stand by the claim that everyone does? Or would we want to exclude those who’d exclude us?
The fact is there are certain people, be they faculty or students, who don’t belong in what we’d like a university to be. So the fight is not, as the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship would have it, over the effects of EDI on academic freedom and scholarship. It’s over the prior question. What kind of place should a university be? We SAFSers want it to be a certain kind of place. Our enemies want it to be a different kind. Both sides presuppose what the other denies. But we’re not two ships passing harmlessly in the night. Rather we’re two ships on a direct collision course.
The vast majority of academics are on our side, or would be if we could show the requisite leadership. At this fundamental level, there’s no their arguing with us any more than there’s our arguing with them. This is a power struggle, pure and simple, and should be treated as such. We need to launch our own Counter-Inquisition. We need to start naming names and cancelling the cancellers. We need to start silencing the silencers. We need to launch a campaign of uncivil disobedience. Our silent majority colleagues need to see that one can call out the emperor’s attire and still carry on unmolested in the classroom and the lab.
But what’s needed most of all is an end to these wannabe incendiary metaphors. That need is hereby met.