Diversity and Academic Freedom: Perspectives from Prof. Danielle Allen of Harvard University

Prof. Danielle Allen, Harvard, on Diversity and Academic Freedom

An excerpt from an opinion piece she wrote at the Washington Post Dec. 10, but that was missed: I was one of three co-chairs of Harvard’s Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, which in 2018 delivered a strategic framework for the campus. Across the country, DEI bureaucracies have been responsible for numerous assaults on common sense, but the values of lowercase-i inclusion and lowercase-d diversity remain foundational to healthy democracy. We wrote [in our report]: “Our shared pursuitsdepend on the open and direct expression of ideas and on criteria of evaluation established by the judgments of experts. Excellence therefore also requires academic freedom. Inclusion and academic freedom — these principles are linked in each being necessary to the pursuit of truth.” We grounded the work in a broad commitment to pluralism. We wanted a diversity of views on campus, and we recognized that the sources of diversity are myriad. We cared as much about viewpoint and religion as any other source of diversity. While we acknowledged historical patterns in our report, we did not dwell on the theme of historical injustices. We did not see the challenge in front of us as “white supremacy”; we never used a vocabulary of that kind. Our faces were set to the future. We saw in the rich diversity of our campus an opportunity — a chance to achieve a higher level of excellence powered by intense engagements across a vast range of viewpoints. But three themes in our report went largely overlooked by university administrators as they began to pursue implementation — our focus on academic freedom, on the need to make space for religious identity and on the need for greater political diversity on our campus. Older paradigms that focused only on some groups as marginalized, as opposed to all groups as sources of potential and perspective, came back to the fore. I am as against racism as anyone, but I believe we can all be better together based on a positive vision. Yes, it is necessary to tackle challenges such as implicit bias. But, counter to the anti-racism agenda, we cannot create a framework for inclusion and belonging that is focused on accusation. As was the case in our 2018 report, the conceptual center of such a framework in our campus communities should be excellence, and what each and every one of us can contribute to that, for the sake of increased benefit to society. Bringing out the best in all of us — to achieve a sum greater than the parts — is possible only if we cultivate a culture of mutual respect. Somehow the racial reckoning of 2020 lost sight of that core goal of a culture of mutual respect with human dignity at the center. A shaming culture was embraced instead.
There’s a lot more in the article, and I don’t entirely agree with its analysis; but this passage struck me as especially worth passing along. The post Prof. Danielle Allen (Harvard) on Diversity and Academic Freedom appeared first on Reason.com.