Since the 1980s, “diversity” has become one of the most important words in higher education. A major reason is the landmark 1979 US Supreme Court decision Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, which struck down the use of racial quotas in admission to universities. The court did, however, specify one justification for treating applicants of different races differently: it said that the State of California (and its universities) has a “compelling interest” in creating a diverse student body because of the benefits that diversity was thought to provide to all students. Justice Powell made it clear that diversity extended far beyond race:  

Ethnic diversity, however, is only one element of a range of factors a university may properly consider in attaining the goal of a heterogeneous student body. . .  The diversity that furthers a compelling state interest encompasses a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial and ethnic origin is but a single though important element.

At Heterodox Academy, diversity is baked into our mission statement: To improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement. We were founded in response to concerns that many academic fields were becoming politically or ideologically homogeneous, but we have long made it clear that we are interested in many kinds of diversity, and we have published many blog posts, podcast episodes and held many events that examined diversity by race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religious affiliation.

But diversity is complicated and, like many terms that get dragged into the culture war, it is often misunderstood. Research shows that different kinds of diversity have different kinds of effects. Research on the benefits of diversity for group performance is mixed; the kind of diversity that is most consistently shown to confer benefits is viewpoint diversity, including political diversity. The kind of program that is most consistently shown to have minimal or negative effects on groups is formal diversity training, especially when it is made mandatory. 

For the months of May and June, HxA will focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices, programs, and philosophies. We’ll explore the values driving these initiatives and review research on the efficacy of these practices and programs. Our goal is to help university administrators, professors, and students think more clearly about the many kinds of diversity and how to maximize the benefits they bring, while avoiding policies that have been shown to be ineffective, or worse. 

For starters, here are the best essays and tools that are already on the site.