Saturday Night Card Game
I graduated from Hamilton College in 1981.
This weekend is Homecoming. And as I understand it, there will be a meeting of the Board of Trustees.
I have no illusions that the Board of Trustees has the desire or ability to address Hamilton’s recent problems given the history of how politicized education has become on campus. But I hope that someone with sense will attempt to address what has become a poisonous situation on campus.
The controversy over the Hamilton segregated then desegregated diversity program understandably has focused on the racial-segregation aspect, so anathema to everything liberal arts education is supposed to stand for.
The reports for Legal Insurrection by two Hamilton students, Dean Ball and Mary Farrington, highlighted how divided the Hamilton campus has become over the issue of race, and how this segregated program pushed the tensions to the surface.
You also only need to take a look at a Facebook page called Hamilton Secrets to see how people have been venting their racial frustrations anonymously — in all directions.
Yet Hamilton is a school which has diversity programs common on almost every campus. There are administrators, faculty and staff devoted to diversity, creating a myriad of diversity programming covering virtually every aspect of campus life.
Race relations are supposed to be getting better, not worse, as a result. But it’s not happening as intended.
I use the term Diversity Industry because what is happening at Hamilton is similar to much of what readers see frequently on Saturday nights in this column — professionals devoted to “diversity” who actually create racial divisions and stoke racial tensions.
At Hamilton, the Days-Massolo Center was opened in April 2012 as a focal point for diversity programming. I’m sure the intentions were honorable. But if recent events are any indication, results have not followed intentions.
It was Amit Taneja, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and leader of the Days-Massolo Center, who organized the original segregated diversity program that generated so much controversy.
When student Dean Ball objected to the segregated programming, Taneja’s first reaction was to dismiss the concern as being “in the minority.” What an ironic statement from the Director of Diversity & Inclusion.
Taneja backed down when Hamilton students affiliated with the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (a group not allowed to locate on campus) announced they would hold a competing racially-integrated program. But both Taneja and Hamilton President Joan Hinde Stewart have defended the original decision.
Taneja sent an email to the campus stating:
“My intent was to be inclusive but my phrasing suggested otherwise.”
President Stewart backed him up:
“Amit’s goal was very inclusive, but the wording gave rise to misconceptions,” President Joan Hinde Stewart commented to The Spectator.
Sorry, but calling racially-segregated programing “inclusive” and merely the result of a wording problem tells me the Hamilton administration at the highest level is not serious about the seriousness of what happened.
The Hamilton diversity programming page demonstrates how the entire ethos of the programming is to break people down into and then classify them by race and other ethnic factors:
Are we surprised that on a campus where diversity programming depends on classifying people by race and other ethnic factors that students continue to recognize themselves in their campus lives by race and other ethnic factors?
The anonymous commenters at Hamilton Secrets understand what the Hamilton administrators do not:
There’s something else going on here.
I don’t know Taneja. I’ll assume that his subjective intentions were good, and that the segregated program was not a deliberate, knowing agitation.
But it was an agitation, nonetheless, as is every program where administrators place students into racial and ethnic boxes and implicitly pit them against each other competing in zero sum games for limited resources.
Hamilton and other schools need to rethink their approach. They may be making things worse, causing students to feel segregated and fomenting resentments in every direction.
Those resentments are stoked by the very programming which seeks the opposite result, and occasionally they erupt, as is happening at Hamilton.
So as you meet this weekend, Board of Trustees, consider alternatives. Think outside the box. Don’t rely on the Diversity Industry. More money for more staffing for more programs and centers may be counter-productive.
At least consider the possibility.