Somehow, the word “equity” has come to replace the word “equality” in the pedagogic vernacular in discussions of racism on campus. Maybe it’s because my own concerns are so far removed from those of today’s college student, but when I hear the word “equity”, I think of this now-secondary definition:
“the money value of a property or of an interest in a property in excess of claims or liens against it”
Indeed, the first definition in the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary is now:
“justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism”
It’s a little confusing to someone on the outside, but it feels a little bit like the goal of ensuring that everyone has the same opportunity to achieve has been replaced with the goal of ensuring that everyone achieves the same outcome. And it’s not immediately obvious to the lay person what the deficiencies of the now obsolete term, “equality”, might have been.
Evergreen State College has an Equity Action Plan. It’s an impenetrable thicket of jargon, but the gist of it is that racism explains just about everything that’s wrong. It’s got different “goals” listed, including Content Goals, Process Goals, Outcome Goals, and a single Equity Goal, which is:
• Our equity goal, simply put but not simply achieved, is to substantially improve the experiences of underserved students on our campus so that we close equity gaps in student learning and student success. An “equity gap” is an unequitable difference—read “worse”— between the experiences, opportunities, and/or outcomes of underserved students. We choose “underrepresented” and “underserved” with intention, in recognition of the power of language to name the problem as one of historical exclusion from ‘the academe’ and its power and resources, eschewing language that sources the problem as the students themselves (“at risk”) or in a negative light (“minority”).
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bruce Weinstein, a biology professor at the college, voiced his disagreement with the Plan.
The plan and the way it is being forced on the college are both deeply authoritarian, and the attempt to mandate equality of outcome is unwise in the extreme. Equality of outcome is a discredited concept, failing on both logical and historical grounds, as anyone knows who has studied the misery of the 20th century. It wouldn’t have withstood 20 minutes of reasoned discussion.
This presented traditional independent academic minds with a choice: Accept the plan and let the intellectual descendants of Critical Race Theory dictate the bounds of permissible thought to the sciences and the rest of the college, or insist on discussing the plan’s shortcomings and be branded as racists. Most of my colleagues chose the former, and the protesters are in the process of articulating the terms. I dissented and ended up teaching in the park.
Weinstein also disagreed with the “Day of Absence” at Evergreen, where all white people have been asked to stay off campus. He wrote an email protesting the event which induced accusations of racism and ignited a campus firestorm.
This has given outlets like Breitbart apoplexy. To be honest, the concept of asking any group to stay away does seem a little over the edge, although the idea of being on the same side as Breitbart on this or any issue is dread-inducing at best.
The Washington Times reports some of the action this way:
A video of the confrontation, captured by Mr. Vincent, shows Mr. Weinstein attempting to reason with dozens of students who routinely shout him down, curse at him and demand his resignation.
When the professor tells the students he will listen to them if they listen to him, one student responds, “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”
Another protester asks the professor whether he believes “black students in sciences are targeted.”
After asking for a clarification, Mr. Weinstein says, “I do not believe that anybody on our faculty, with intent, specially targets students of color.”
That remark prompts shrieks of outrage.
Weinstein, a lifelong liberal, is now literally under siege and his resignation has been demanded. In a lengthy interview on the Rubin Report, he claims that student protesters threatened to kidnap him
Equity in action at Evergreen State College. Ugh.