The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 19, 2010, 02:00 PM ET
By Mark Bauerlein
One of the extraordinary phenomena in campus culture in the last two decades is the rise of "diversity" as a concept, condition, banner, and ambition. How is it that "diversity" went from being a routine term with no particular cachet into the notion/term of the moment. It appears everywhere from my son's kindergarten classroom wall ("CELEBRATE DIVERSITY") to high-level administrative office doors at universities everywhere.
Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy has an explanation in The American Prospect in an essay entitled "The Enduring Relevance of Affirmative Action." Kennedy begins by recounting the numerous challenges to and the rising unpopularity of affirmative action in the 1980s and 90s, then asserts that the tide has shifted. People who don't profit directly by affirmative action practices aren't so angry about race-based practices any more, Kennedy writes, and for one reason major reason: "The amorphous and malleable idea of 'diversity.'" While few private businesses wanted to defend "reverse racism," Kennedy says, he recalls "the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative-action cases when 65 major companies, including American Express, Coca Cola, and Microsoft, asserted that maintaining racial diversity in institutions of higher education is vital to their efforts to hire and maintain a diverse workforce."
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