Monday, April 19, 2010

Painful Dartmouth student responses to diversity questionnaire

On the one hand, I think people should largely be given free passes for stupid things that they say while under the age of 23 or so. On the other, there are forms of foolishness that remind me why Phi Beta Cons, like the poor, will always be with us. Thus my linking to the Dartmouth Student Assembly candidates' questionnaires on "diversity at Dartmouth." You can read their answers in full here.

First, it's telling that the questions are so bad. I'll start with #1 -- "Can you identify the underrepresented communities at Dartmouth?" Were I in a particularly snarky mood, I might have mumbled something about finding a statistician. But no -- the SA candidates all trot out a long and appropriately PC list of underrepresented communities. I'm not even sure the "environmental sustainability community" is an underrepresented community. I'd bet $100 of my own money that Dartmouth students tip more environmentalist than the general population. Also, the phrase "accessibility community" reflects a particularly unfortunate spin of the euphemism treadmill.

There's an Alliance for Socioeconomic Awareness there now, too? Oh well: perhaps their brand of identity politics is less silly than the brands of identity politics that people in my time indulged in. Also, I fear their numbers are probably off. Households that have at least one 18 to 22 year old are likely to be wealthier than average because the parent(s) heading them tend to be toward their peak income years. I'll use myself as an example; I made $31,000 as a research assistant at the social research firm when I first graduated from college. My household income in that year (2005) counted toward the national average. So did the incomes of a lot of other households like mine. By the time I have an 18-year-old child ready to attend college, I expect to be making quite a bit more than that.

What's also interesting about this is that there are no faculty members, no administrators, putting pressure on these candidates to answer a certain way. (As far as I know, the questionnaire was also student drafted. So students are responsible for the sheer inanity of question #1.) Most of them could have waxed a little less PC and still avoided offending anyone. Sometimes in conservative critiques of academia of the Phi Beta Cons variety, the writers seem to assume that students are merely mouthing PC bromides to keep administrators and faculty happy. Students can't really believe these outrageous things, the PBC writers seem to suggest. That doesn't seem the case here -- these people all seem to be true believers.

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