Talk show host Bill O'Reilly called him "a loon." The head of a conservative think tank said he fed students propaganda and egged on a student "mob."Read the whole thing. Who knows the causal connection between the meeting one day and the disruption the next? My point — and I'm quoted toward the end of this piece — is that the University should not act scared about this. It should not concede that the CEO's activity is a threat. Presumably, the admissions policies are aligned with the case law and within the range permitted under the Equal Protection Clause. Why stir up negative emotion and anxiety?
The comments were directed at UW-Madison's chief diversity officer, Damon Williams, who has been at the center of an admissions maelstrom ever since the Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity alleged in a report this month that the university gives preferential treatment to black and Hispanic students.
Learning a day early that the center planned to release its findings at a Madison news conference, Williams and Dean of Students Lori Berquam convened a meeting of students to discuss "a threat to our diversity efforts." The next day, a group of students disrupted the news conference, forcing the center's president and a former UW-Madison professor to leave the room.
The appropriate attitude is confidence and pride, demonstrating a belief in the chosen policy. The organization that has attacked us is serious and hardworking. It's not a random swipe at us that deserves no attention. We should respond in a way that suits a public university and have a reasonable, vigorous debate, including a conversation with the people of the state. The people have the power to trump the University's policy choice by legislation, so simple political sense ought to make us want to make a good argument aimed at them. But quite apart from political pragmatism, we should, as a matter of principle, show that we care about the citizens of Wisconsin who were excluded in the admissions process. As a university, we should take advantage of what is an opportunity to teach and to demonstrate a love for debate and weighing diverse viewpoints.
I mean, diversity is supposed to be the central value. And — here's a lesson in what the Supreme Court has said the Equal Protection Clause means — the diversity that justifies the use of racial classification "is defined by reference to the educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce."
The reason the Court has allowed some flexibility to use race in admissions is that it supposedly connects to the University's educational mission. If that connection is real, it ought to show.