I WAS recently invited by one of my alma maters to consider applying to become a member of one of the grand ruling councils at the university. Delusions of grandeur flooded in. Memories were stirred of the university with its air of learning and immediately accessible culture. Music, art, history. How many residents of a university town avail themselves of all the intellectual and artistic opportunities on their doorstep? I could almost see the steam rising on my coffee as I mentally returned to my old haunts, atmospheric caves where you could sit for hours with your laptop as long as you got one of the tables by an outlet (batteries have come a long way since then). Added to that, I would be contributing in my small way to an academic institution dear to me and respected worldwide – I would be giving back a bit to a place that gave so many terrific experiences to me.
My enthusiasm (and interest) was rudely curtailed as I read the entirety of the email, and became simple dismay: ‘Here we go again.’
The invitation read: ‘The University is committed to improving the diversity of its governing structures and expressions of interest are especially welcome from . . . blah, blah, blah’ – you know the rest. Yes, it turns out that they don’t want ‘my type’ of person. I may be able, and willing. I may have the time. But I don’t have the right set of externals.
The noble-sounding drone about seeking people whose character isn’t as interesting as their skin colour or ethnic origin or sexual preferences. The dull and bland and self-defeating doublespeak that betrays that the university isn’t actually interested in diversity at all – it’s interested in externals. Externals matter, you see. Diversity is measurable, typically by chromosomes, melanin, the list goes on. Diversity is never measured by thought or imagination or experience of life.
What was particularly irksome was the complete lack of thought, consideration, or iota of self-awareness as to their guilt in the silencing and marginalising of a significant section of the alumni (and general) population. AKA, my type of people. ‘Oh, no, we have enough of you – you’re already represented enough.’ No, actually, I’m not, you narrow-minded, judgmental numpties. Because my type are not all the same. Everybody is different and distinct and unique, and you cannot tell any of that from their appearance.
I don’t imagine that it ever occurs to the so-informed and so-enlightened minds of those assembling these percentage template bodies that there are people out here who may have something to offer, who may wish their voice heard, but who have the wrong externals. Do they not realise how the reduction of the person to that which excludes the heart and mind and soul is shallow and shoddy discrimination based on external characteristics?
How can ‘smart’ people be so dumb?
Typically in these situations there is an almost immediate surrender to the inevitability of it all – let them get on with their insular exercises of self-congratulation. Not this time. I sent an email:
‘This advertisement is offensive, as it is overtly discriminatory to favour certain parties over others based on what many consider immutable characteristics.
‘I will never be able to financially support my university as long as excellence is sacrificed for diversity. There are legal provisions in effect to guard against unfair practices, so why not just advertise the positions and select the best candidate based on character, not characteristics?’
Soon I’ll be getting another of those fund-raising letters from the university. That will present me with a dilemma. How can I, in good conscience, support such a bigoted institution? It’s not good to send money to prejudiced people, is it? Anyone lending financial support to morally questionable institutions is liable to a morality audit one day that might cost them their job. I don’t see how I can pledge to a bunch of discriminators – because that’s what they are, in their pinched efforts to appear noble.
It’s been over two months since my message was acknowledged: ‘Thank you for your email, I have forwarded this onto the Court Office.’ I’m still waiting. I suppose I’m hoping for a reply displaying a sudden awareness of the blindness of the university and its repentant desire to re-orient itself to judging based on merit.
That would be far too much to hope for. It’s all so inevitable, and it saddens me to think of my alma mater drifting away on the Sea of Woke while I turn away and trudge off the beach. Not even bothering to wave, because what’s the point? It’s good riddance to my type, and they’ve got shiny new diversions to pat patronisingly on the head and seat around the table.