America has a race problem and universities are part of America

I finally realized what has been bothering me so much about the recent campus protests and it is encapsulated in the title of this post.  Of course, American universities have a race problem.  American universities are part of America, which clearly has a race problem.  That said, I would posit that universities have far less of a problem than America in general.  Universities are typically run by liberal persons with a real commitment to diversity and ending racism.  Universities actually have real institutions in place, e.g., Diversity offices, multi-cultural centers, curriculum requirements, to try and address the problems of racism.  So, I’ll got back to the Ayers post I recently included on quick hits (and clearly should have just saved for here):

Conflicts often arise between aggrieved students and university administrators or faculty, which is an example of the lamppost fallacy: tackling what you can see, rather than going where the problem really is. The fundamental conflict is between members of minority groups (blacks, latinos, transgender, etc.) and members of the majority group who want to discriminate against and oppress them. If that is the core of the conflict, there is no unilateral solution – neither group can wipe the other out, both must continue to live in the same society together. The question is, how?

Colleges are great places to have protest.  There’s a a huge tradition of it.  University administrators are actually a sympathetic audience for protesters due to the aforementioned factors.  But universities are not the problem.

And, while I’m at I should mention with regards to protester demands for more minority faculty that virtually every university in America wants more African-American faculty.  Seriously.  NC State is far from alone in having a special fund just to make this happen.  But wishing it will not make it so.  Simply put, there are not enough Black PhD’s in the pipeline.  Presumably, universities could do more in this regard (though, see efforts above), but this is not a problem that can be solved at the university level.  This is a problem with, quite obvious, deep-seated historical and sociological roots.

Of course universities should do what they can, but I would argue that your typical public university is already far more progressive on these issues than most aspects of American society.  The difference is that, for a number of historical, sociological, and logistical reasons, universities are great places to protest.


Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week:

Deadwood is seen at the sunset in Epecuen Village, November 5, 2015. Over the past few years the town of Epecuen, located 550 kilometers (341 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires, has been attracting tourists with its eerie apocalyptic atmosphere after a flood submerged it in salt water for more than two decades. Originally a busy lakeside tourist village in the 1920s renowned for its saltwater baths, Epecuen came to a sudden end on November 10, 1985 when a succession of rainy winters caused Lago Epecuen to overflow and water surged through a special retaining wall and into the town. Residents and tourists were forced to evacuate and in just a few days homes and buildings were covered by almost 10 meters (33 feet) of salt water. Now, 30 years later, the water has evaporated and former residents can walk amidst the rusted out ruins of what was once their town.

Enrique Marcarian / Reuters
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