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The Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence

If you keep doing what you always done, you’ll get what you always got.

— Old cowboy saying

The title of the Hanlon administration’s new Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence would bring a wry smile to connoisseurs of jargon, if the contents were not going to involve so much time and money to so little effect. To put it another way: MOTS — more of the same.

Phil and his gang will be doing all the usual things that we have seen over and over in the past: appointing committees, setting targets (quotas?), adding to fellowships, reviewing the tenure process (adding emphasis on institutional workload), training everyone within ten miles of Hanover against implicit bias (including the Trustees!), conducting “stay” and exit interviews, assessing progress with the help of internal and external monitors, establishing webpages to let everyone know how well the College is doing, increasing budgets to fund hiring efforts and salaries for underrepresented minorities (URM), evaluating faculty, senior staff, departments, divisions and schools for their efforts to encourage diversity at Dartmouth, and on and on.

We might even see Phil lead us in singing Kumbaya. (Note: The new administration effort mirrors the diversity and inclusion efforts finalized at Brown on February 1, 2016. Brown has now had a four-month head start in recruiting the very same minority-group scholars that Phil wants to bring to Hanover.)

SAT By Race 2015.jpgOf course, none of these efforts will make the least bit of difference. You see, nobody is willing to look at the elephant in the room: for reasons of historical prejudice and lousy schools, there are just not enough qualified African Americans or other URM’s graduating from high school each year to populate a diverse class at the top schools — that is, without making serious accommodations for applicants with low scores. Look at this excerpt from the SAT Percentile Ranks for 2015 College-Bound Seniors (right). A total of 219,018 African Americans took the SAT last year, and only about 2,200 (1%) scored over 700 in the three parts of the test. When you extrapolate those figures through and beyond graduate schools, you will find that the number of qualified-to-receive-tenure-in-the-Ivies professors is very slim versus the competition from other diversity groups.

Due to the above-mentioned factors, African Americans punch far below their weight in SAT scoring, and Asian Americans do far better (the above-mentioned 2,200 figure represents the achievement level of African Americans in the below charts):

SAT by Race 2015 Charts Comp.jpg

We are already seeing the results of differential standards for admissions in the profile of the Dartmouth student body. Look at the huge spread in SAT scores among our students:

SAT Enrolled students 2011-2015.jpg

The top quarter of the Dartmouth Class of 2019 had SAT critical reasoning scores over 780, yet the bottom quarter had scores under 670. For the mean to be pulled all the way down to 717 (13 points below the median) implies that we are admitting some students with critical reasoning scores in the very low 600’s.

Contrast the College’s top quartile/bottom quartile scores with Harvard and Yale. In Cambridge the top 25% of students scored over 780 in math and critical reasoning, and the bottom 25% scored as high as 700; in New Haven the range was 795 and 710. The difference between the bottom quartiles in Cambridge/New Haven and Hanover is striking. A rough estimate is that most, if not all, of the bottom quartile of the Dartmouth Class of 2019 scored less well than any undergraduate at Harvard and Yale. We are having to make exceptions to our exceptions.

If the Hanlon administration insists on hitting ever more ambitious student and faculty minority recruitment “targets,” we’ll end up with an even larger number of under-prepared, under-represented minority students on campus whose anger is fueled by their inability to compete on even terms with their white classmates — and we’ll be hiring faculty members who don’t stand a chance at tenure time (unless we gut the tenure process). The mixture of these two factors is a toxic one, as we have seen over the past several years. Race relations will only get worse as a result of the Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence — not better.

Addendum: For detail on how the admission of poorly prepared students into a population of high achievers generates strife and anger rather than harmony, see various pieces by Jonathan Haidt, including Hard Truths About Race on Campus and The amazing 1969 prophecy that racial preferences would cause the exact grievances of protesters today; and Stuart Taylor, A Little-Understood Engine of Campus Unrest: Racial Admissions Preferences and Why “Mismatch” is Relevant in Fisher v. Texas.

Addendum: A senior member of the faculty writes in:

This is the umpteenth pronouncement from the President and the Provost on diversity. To this point we have heard little about scholarship or teaching which are our central missions. Even if we care about diversity, it is clear this should not be at the top of our list of priorities.

This emphasis says a great deal about the lack of competence of the members of the leadership, who have been unable or unwilling to change the subject. In my view we are fast approaching a vote of no confidence. Sadly, Hanlon has lost control.

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