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Embrace dissent and diversity

Wil Gradle

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In the world of academia, we often find ourselves throwing around the word “diversity.” In fact, I’m willing to bet that this campus is at a time in which the use of the word “diversity” is at its peak, given the most recent round of College Service Personnel (CSP) Days that are starting back up this week. On campus and in the professional world alike, diversity is ascribed what sometimes seems to be a disproportionate level of importance in the hiring process by outlets like Forbes. Other groups, like ERE Media, have highlighted the detriments of diversity in the hiring process. We’ve all heard the murmurs over the course of our lives, “That person was only hired because they are XYZ … I can’t believe they hired that person, they don’t fit into demographic ABC.” But the question arises: What level of significance should diversity receive in the hiring process, if any at all?

It seems we are in a time of ideological dichotomy. I’ve heard many conservatives acknowledge the importance of bringing different perspectives to the table, but being adamantly against hiring quotas based on race, gender, socioeconomic background, etc. The claim is always “the boxes you check at the beginning of a standardized test have nothing to do with your qualifications and should consequently not be considered during the hiring process.” Perhaps there’s even some merit to that side of thinking. On the opposite side of the spectrum, liberals claim that diversity should play a role in the hiring process, perhaps an even larger role than the qualifications of the candidate themselves. From a holistic and societal perspective, maybe there’s room for this argument as well. If there are demonstrable gaps in social and economic outcomes because of those characteristics (causation/correlation is a point contested between the two sides), it seems like a fair intervention of the government to prescribe new hiring habits.

The inherent value of diversity lies in the idea of specialization stemming from different perspectives. Presumably, who I am and where I’m from will lead me to come to different conclusions than someone with a different background. The recognition of path dependence and a healthy dose of humility will lead me to conclude that it is possible that I will not always have the best ideas and it is probable that I won’t ever reach the objectively best ideas on my own accord. In order for my organization to then succeed, I desperately need to rely on the input and thoughts of others with backgrounds dramatically different than my own, Hence, the importance of diversity.

The progress of institutions of higher education across the country towards becoming more ethnically, racially and socially diverse is well documented, but have we lost our appreciation for ideological diversity? Does it even matter?

For the whole of my adult life, I’ve found myself identifying as a Republican. To be sure, I’m more moderate than anything, but if I were to draw a line in the sand, that’s where it would be. It’s no secret that on college campuses all across the country, even one in a county as conservative as ours, Republicans like me have found ourselves in the ideological minority. It’s daunting to share an opinion that you know will be met with fierce opposition. It’s disheartening trying to engage in civil political discourse, only to have it devolve into ad hominems. It’s disenfranchising to get shouted down by a professor when you attempt to weigh in on their mid-class political diatribes. The college campus in America has become a petri dish for liberal thought.

In response to this trend, Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren proposed a bill that would require public universities in Iowa to hire professors, such that the percentage of Republicans and percentage of Democrats are within 10 percent of each other.

Sen. Chelgren said to the Des Moine Register, “I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity. They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are.”

The senator attempted to bring in this legislation under the guise of diversity, but that was misguided. Republicans are not oppressed on college campuses. There are certain areas, even on this campus, in which a Republican like me would not be welcomed with open arms, but the claim that we are suffering because of the differences in proportion of political party representation simply falls short.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m glad I’ve surrounded myself with so many liberal counterparts. It challenges me to truly reevaluate my perspective, and in some respects, it bolsters those political predispositions that I had prior to coming to campus. One of the most impactful mentors I’ve had over the last year or so has been a professor who challenges the way I think because of our ideological differences. It’s not authentic oppression when I have access to every great conservative thinker, writer and speaker right at the tips of my fingers. The bill proposed by Sen. Chelgren does nothing more than hamstring the universities of Iowa from getting the best and brightest they can. If we are going to fight for the conservative cause, let’s at least stay ideologically consistent and fight against,

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Embrace dissent and diversity