Back to the USSR

Some University of Oregon professors are thinking of leaving if a controversial “diversity” plan goes into effect. Mathematics Associate Professor Alexander Kleshchev, a Russian immigrant, told the Daily Emerald the plan reminds him of the Soviet Union.

“Look, I am personally not going to be interrogated about my thoughts, and I am not going to go to reeducation camps either,” said Kleshchev, alluding to the Five Year Diversity Plan’s requirement that faculty participate in a summer diversity seminar.

“I’ve had enough of that in my previous life in the Soviet Union, and I just will not have this again. I tried freedom now; I liked it, and I am not about to give it up,” Kleshchev said.

Most signers of an open letter criticizing the plan are professors in math or science.

(Math Professor N. Chris) Phillips said the Five Year Diversity Plan is a “terrible idea” because it “calls for us to judge new faculty hires first and foremost by the color of their skin.”

The plan, now being massaged, calls for making “cultural competence” a factor in hiring and promotion, but doesn’t define the term. Here’s a university summer workshop on Hiring for Cultural Competence. The blurb quotes a 2004 Invitational Summit on Cultural Competency, which defined “cultural competence as a developmental process, operating on both an individual and a system level, that ‘is based on a commitment to social justice and equity’.” But that’s not all.

The definition goes on to say that “cultural competency requires that individuals and organizations institutionalize, incorporate, evaluate and advocate (its components) in all aspects of leadership, policy-making, administration, practice, and service delivery, while systematically involving staff, students, families, key stakeholders and communities.”

In order to meet it’s (sic) obligations as a 21st-century university, the University of Oregon needs to seriously consider and evaluate cultural competence as a part of the relevant knowledge and skill set of all applicants, whether they are seeking to work as faculty, administrators or in other staff positions. This workshop will examine how the components of cultural competence can be practically included as key criteria in writing position descriptions; in searching for applicants; in constructing and evaluating the answers to supplemental, interview and reference check questions; as well as in other selection processes, for any position.

When I first heard “cultural competence,” I thought it meant professors and staff should be able to work with people from different backgrounds. But apparently it’s not that simple.

John Shuford, the interim associate director for the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC) said that cultural competency was not defined for two reasons: It would not be appropriate for the drafters of the blueprint to impose a definition because that might have led to adverse responses by some. Secondly, the working definition would have become the focal point of debate, preventing a deeper discussion of the ideas presented.

Translation: The drafters didn’t want to define the term for fear people would oppose the idea and want to discuss it.

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  1. hardlyb says:

    That’s a wonderful description of this
    nonsense in action. I work for a university, but
    only as research staff and I work mostly from
    home, so I don’t have to deal with this on
    a regular basis. But the professor I work for
    occasionally relates anecdotes that would curl
    my hair if it were long enough…

    It seems to me that the best interpretation
    possible is that for most people that
    call themselves “liberal”, the intention of
    of a policy or practice matter much more
    than the results.

  2. rouxdsla says:

    Why don’t they just put up a sign. “White Men Need Not Apply”…

  3. They’re really talking about ‘five year plans’ to a Russian immigrant. Numbskulls are lucky they’re still alive!

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    It appears that the University of Oregon could use some of the Commissars from the former USSR to implement their plan. Clearly they have experience in forcing recalcitrant individuals to toe the party line. I wonder it the University of Oregon has a medical school with a psychiatric ward. Then they would have the perfect place to send all of the deviant professors so that they can reeducate them to the proper way of thinking.

    I tried freedom now; I liked it, and I am not about to give it up”

    It is sad that it takes someone who came from a totalitarian society to teach Americans what freedom is.

  5. “It is sad that it takes someone who came from a totalitarian society to teach Americans what freedom is.”

    Oh, how I agree. My 17 year old recently told me kids in her history class were not getting the point that communism was not Utopia. I contacted her teacher and asked if he would be willing to have a guest speaker talk about Communism from a person that lived through it first hand.

    I could write a book on what I heard in the four classes my friend spoke to. To spare some eye strain, I’ll try to summarize his story:

    Age 12: Lived through his first air-raid and described the horror of humans being blown to pieces and the sounds of exploding bombs and flying shrapnel and dying men. He could not hear again for three days.
    Age 13: Stacked the bodies of dead Russians and Germans in his home town. It was too cold to dig graves.
    Late Teens: After winning the Stalinist Workers Award, had to denounce his “class enemy” parents to go to college. His dad was a civil engineer — that was too much for his Comrades.
    Age 24: Watched the first shots fired in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A Mother and child were gunned down by an overzealous secret police officer. He was only a few feet away.
    Age 24: He was the sole survivor of machine gun fire that killed six of his friends and fellow freedom fighters. He was severely wounded in the right knee.
    Age 24: Crawled, on his stomach, through the snow, between two Russian tanks to escape to Austria.

    On December 31, 1956, at precisely midnight, his cattle boat dropped anchor in New York Harbor. He had tears in his eyes when he described how beautiful New York Harbor was all lit up with colored Christmas lights.

    One girl’s question brought a response that shut down every sound in the classroom. Even the teacher was stunned to silence. The question was simple and was not asked sarcastically. “What’s the difference between Communism and what we have now?” I watched a 73 year old man, in obvious pain after standing for nearly four hours — bad knee, hip-replacement and the wear and tear of war — stand straight up and with a stern , heavy Hungarian accent say something that I think astounded everyone in the room “YOU were BORN with your freedom. I fought and nearly died for mine. You will NEVER understand the difference until you lose your freedom and have to fight for your life to regain it.”

    To break the silence the he jokingly added that Fascism and Communism were basically the same if she wanted a comparison, however, the Germans were more humane than the Russians.

    On the way home from the event, with my daughter in the car, said his only regret was that he and his fellow freedom fighters chose not to be like the communists and shoot the secret police. They took prisoners and the prisoners were treated well. When the Russians brought in tanks and freed the captives, they immediately turned in names of everyone that was involved in their capture. Every one of the Hungarians named was executed on sight. My friend was on the hit list and had to run. He said it hurt leaving, but he knew, wounded, he could no longer help.

    I could not help but think of Guantanamo Bay when my friend said one final thing: “We should have killed every one of those bastards.”

    My daughter will never have a better history teacher the rest of her life.

  6. Have very mixed feelings about this one.

    I was on many faculty interview panels over the last two years and they were very illuminating. One of the faculty candidates was outspoken about their feelings about all the “rag heads” they saw on campus. “How can you stand looking at the enemy while you lecture?” I didn’t tell them about the open air teachings the Muslim Student Association does on the quad each Friday at noon. Suffice it to say, that person was not offered a position.

    That this person felt comfortable making this comment during an interview process was disturbing – especially since our campus has not had a racial majority since 1994. If that candidate wanted to avoid diversity, they applied to the wrong school.

    At the same time, I’ve also seen our “diversity training” devolve into a list of somewhat racist generalizations which are of questionable value when dealing with individual students. I think anyone committed to helping students will eventually learn what they need to know about their students’ cultures to be effective as an advisor and teacher – mostly by interacting with students, observing what works, and *asking* students what they need. This assumes that they are willing and able to make the appropriate observations….

    As a woman in science, I know what it feels like to be surrounded by teachers who are not like you. I’ve seldom had female professors and frankly, when looking for role models, I found my female mentors more helpful than males because women struggled with more of the same issues. I imagine this is a well intentioned if somewhat misguided attempt to help people “see themselves” in the faculty that teach at the university. Too bad they couldn’t do it with more sensitivity to the existing culture at the school.

  7. SuperSub says:

    Ivory, I understand and empathize with your point concerning the “raghead” comment, but it all boils down to an appropriate response. That professor who made the comment should have been dealt with immediately and individually by his peers and supervisors. Forcing an over-reaching system upon an entire school for the sake of a few individuals is definitely a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In an attempt to protect the freedoms of everyone, they have denied freedom instead.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What did the Muslim students refer to us as?

  9. Joanne;

    Having trouble with trackbacks from Chinese servers. linked you, and thanks mucho for the post.

  10. elfcharm says:

    My stance on all of this, is that, quite frankly, I find affirmative action, and multiculturalist policies, to be inherently racist.
    IF all men are born equal, then it is my assumption that their viewpoints would be dominated primarily by their upbringing, as opposed to their race. Since the various races, at the same economic level, tend to react similarly, then it would seem that economic position, and familial structure, has a greater impact than the color of your skin.

    Now, having said that, affirmative action/multicultural preference EITHER says that people of different races/sexes are inherently inferior, or that, due to their ethnicity, they bring in different viewpoints and ideas.
    Given that the viewpoints/ideas have more to do with economic position in america, then the argument that bringing in different cultures increases the flavor of the ideas in a place is debunked. Which leaves, sadly, the idea that people of other ethnicities are inferior.
    Which, last I checked, was racism.
    Unfortunately, this argument is not perfect when concidering women, because you guys, due to your natural proclivities, tend to actually bring in a different viewpoint or style.

    Which is sad, because I would really, really like to use this argument to call these policies sexist as well, but I need to use other arguments for that.
    So, Salute your racist, soviet university!