Universities and colleges should Stop Wasting Money on Diversity and Spend It on Tutoring and Mentoring Instead
To know whether or not something has a positive effect on university students it is only necessary to see the results that it produces over a period of time. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity policies have shown that they have failed the test dramatically. Rather than provide a better environment for students. This initiative is undermining other areas of education that could greatly benefit students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Evidence from a 2018 study shows that in the North American case, the percentage of enrolled students per ethnic groups have been fairly consistent from 1990 to 2015. The researchers, suggest more diversity instead of changing the approach. Is that really a wise choice considering the record that shows such diversity efforts are mostly ineffective? The question to ask then are “Why doesn’t diversity as a policy work?”, and “Why is spending money on mentoring and student support a better system?”
There are several reasons that diversity efforts do not work. Prof. Erec Smith points out that support for diversity theories such as Critical Race Theory often actually have an opposite effect than that which is desired because the initiatives take a shallow approach and do not address underlying problems. Instead, they appeal to the emotional aspect of attempting to do good or being shown to do good, this leads to free inquiry being stifled when any criticism of ideas takes place.
How does this impact on diversity efforts? Diversity of thought, experience, opinions and ideas are important and intellectual diversity is a predicate of high innovation both in the students and faculty. As Prof. Gad Saad mentions in his observation of DEI (which he calls DIE), the movement is often implemented in universities with a religious fervour and that not only students but also faculty are expected to agree to the most minute of details leading to a loss of meritocracy. This notion is supported by finding that the lowering of standards for certain groups also causes a bigotry of low expectations, causing a passive atmosphere of ethnic or racial superiority and inferiority where people are held to higher or lower standards based on their ethnicity or background.
To make matters worse, Dr. Thomas Sowell noted that allowing students to enter by lowering the bar rather than allowing them to get to a position where they could pass the bar, resulted in high dropout rates among black students at MIT (about 25%).
Essentially, this poor school matching for the sake of affirmative action became a slap in the face to hardworking black students who were told they were being given an opportunity but then thrown in the deep end when it came to scholastic competitiveness, leading to what Sowell termed “artificial failures”.
In the case of Harvard, socio-economic status speaks volumes, with 70% of students coming from the richest 20%, 15.4% from the country’s richest 1% elite. The issue here is not then systemic racism as so often espoused but actually an issue of socio-economics. How can a young black student from Harlem who enters Harvard hope to compete with a black student from the top 20% or 1%? It is unlikely that the student from Harlem has enjoyed the same access to elementary and secondary education as those with privileged backgrounds.
Therefore, instead of lowering the bar, it seems that the large amount of money and resources which could instead be used either to prepare students and bring them up to standard or create scholarships for highly intelligent but economically underprivileged students, are being wasted on ineffective and needless positions diversity positions. The following are salary estimates of Diversity Officers from the website “Glassdoor”.
Surely such funds would be better directed at assisting students who need it the most rather than hiring someone to do the job that a counsellor could do better. Such funds would provide much needed fees for scholarships, mentoring or tutors. Or alternatively, instead of hiring individuals who have a title based on diversity but little actual impact, would it not be better to do away with such positions and lower college and university fees across the board but especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
In reality a better methodology would be to allow students to enter lower level universities or colleges and use funding that is paid to Diversity Officers and divert these funds to tutors who for one or two years would focus on assisting promising students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in order to attain the level of essential skills needed to succeed at elite universities. Students can then be allowed to transfer the elite university via a scholarship program and have a far greater chance of graduating.
Alternatively, such tutors and mentoring programs could take place inside the elite universities themselves. Instead of merely ticking a box, students will have received the skills they need to succeed and can do so using their own hard work. This not only creates meritocracy but also eradicates tokenism and the bigotry of low expectations because no one can then argue that any group has been given a “free ride”.
Does mentoring really work? In an interview, Professor and author Isaiah Rashad II spoke of the powerful effect of mentorship and how it assists struggling students from low income backgrounds.
Prof. Rashad is no stranger to difficulty himself, his story having some parallels to Dr. Sowell. He had a difficult childhood. He tried to make a library card at the age of ten even though he was in a gang and couldn’t read. Helped by a librarian, it opened his eyes to a new world. He admitted that the fact that he couldn’t read was one of the factors that led him to be “educated” by the gang, further underscoring the need for good basic education.
At the age of 12, he decided to leave the gang, a potentially deadly action as most who make this decision are killed, fortunately he survived the process of “jumping out” of the gang (“Jumping out” refers to leaving a gang) but he was beaten so severely that he was hospitalized for a few days.
Over the years, he was mentored and guided by people who saw his potential allowing him to grow. Now an avid supporter of mentoring students, Prof. Rashad made a poignant statement “mentorship for students is of more value than a PhD”, in his university he has seen how such one on one mentoring and support drastically increases students’ chances of success. It would then seem that the simplistic, on paper policy of diversity is just that, something that looks good on paper.
The observations of Prof. Rashad are supported by extensive research conducted by Professor Nuria Ruiz Morillas and Prof. Manel Fandos Garrido who discovered that tutoring was highly appreciated by students and that positive academic relationships with tutors resulted. The same study found that only a small number of students reached out for tutoring but that more would do so if it were actively promoted in the university.
Higher education must move from squandering money on diversity policies that look good on paper and instead start putting the money into tutoring and mentoring programs that can actually help students. change and assistance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds whether they be black, white, Hispanic or any other group then really depends on the support given by both universities and educators. Defunding of DEI and funding of mentors and tutors is the first step to helping those who need it most.
Alaric Naudé is a professor specialising in education, linguistics and social science. He is widely recognised as having a great face for radio.