Georgetown, like most universities, is obsessed with promoting diversity. The latest iteration of diversity promotion centers on gay and lesbian demands for greater diversity training, awareness, and representation on campus. In response to these demands, the university administration has formed several working groups that are going to make recommendations for concrete changes to student life, curriculum, even campus tours.
Diversity is a tough issue, particularly because no one is willing or even permitted to talk about what it actually means. Diversity means "difference": therefore, efforts to encourage diversity on campus would seem to involve the promotion of difference and the sharpening of distinctions. However, movements such as these are actually an effort to discourage difference: "diversity training" is intended to make every person on campus equally tolerant and non-judgmental toward everyone else, and, in fact, equally uncaring. Difference is to exist but not to matter. But this is as undesirable as it is impossible: difference can only exist if it really matters, if differences are noteworthy enough for us to notice and care.
Plato long ago noted that we have different eye colors but that it's a difference that doesn't matter to us. Differences in gender have far more significance, and hence we talk about them and notice them a lot more. It's the effort of "diversity training" to make things like differences in gender no more significant than differences in eye color. But, success in this effort would be to make the difference irrelevant and to undermine the very idea of "diversity." All the while, it remains highly dubious whether one could render such differences truly irrelevant and unworthy of notice.
We pretend as if "diversity training" is to make us all appreciate the differences that distinguish us, but in fact it is to promote indifference to actual difference. We then assume this indifference to be toleration or even approval. Those who cannot be rendered tractable to such indifference are shamed into pretending as if they don't care, fearing above all the label of "intolerance."
In the end, the aim of "diversity training" is for difference to be superficial: our differences are to distinguish us like clothing fashions but not be so deep as to foster "discrimination" or "judgmentalism." To discriminate would be, well - to recognize distinctions. To judge would be - well, to differentiate. Diversity can't allow that. I can wear as many nose rings as I want, but you are not allowed to acknowledge that you notice them. I demand to be different - but you'd better not say that I am.
These discussions about the paramount importance of diversity take place in the backdrop in which intellectual diversity does not exist as a topic of conversation on today's college campuses. Indeed, it could be argued that efforts to encourage diversity are premised upon the dampening if not the elimination of intellectual diversity. It should be surprising to no one, then, that according to an article in today's Washington Post, universities have serious diversity deficit in the currency of ideas - what one would imagine to be of paramount importance in the life of a university. According to this article, you're as likely to see a Republican on a university campus as you are to see a glacier in Iceland.
Indicators like party identification are coarse and inexact: they don't really indicate profound diversity of thought, but at least suggest the presence or absence of certain kinds of political diversity. More importantly, such analyses don't speak to why we have arrived at a point in which universities are dominated by like-thinking people. Maranto notes that people have a tendency to want to surround themselves with people who think like themselves, but he doesn't tell us how we reached a point we are now at. For that we would need a deeper analysis of the modern liberal project and especially the transformation of the idea of a university from a place in which certain kinds of knowledge was transmitted from one generation to the next, to one in which the university came to be an agent of human progress and advancement. We would further need better understanding of what this transformation does to the humanities - those very disciplines that were the conservators and transmittors of ancient learning, and which become superfluous in the new university. Left without a mission or an identity, their only recourse is to demonstrate their hostility to the very thing that they are supposed to teach: and hence, they become critics of past thinkers, of past ideas, and even of books. Each person is charged with making themselves anew, and no limits or ideas of what constitutes human good (or a good life in concert with natural limits and possibilities) can be posited or even intimated. Thoroughgoing human autonomy is the object and aim of the transformed university - and thus, the humanities become the intellectual handmaidens to the modern sciences and their quest to extend human mastery of the world.
The one thing we do not have in today's university is diversity. There is one forbidden idea: the idea that there may be limits based in nature. The modern university exists explicitly on the rejection of this one assumption. One can be sure that there will be no "working groups" anytime soon exploring the creation of a campus "Resource Center" (what a revealing phrase!) for "Nature and Limits." On this point we can be sure that even Democrats and Republicans can agree.