ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Political Litmus Tests in Oregon

May 29, 2005 by ACTA

University of Oregon administrators were surprised by the response they received from faculty and from the media after they revealed a draft of their new "Five-Year Diversity Plan." According to a highly critical staff editorial in the Democrat-Herald, the 22-page document would implement a plan to ensure that each department, faculty member, staff employee, and student demonstrates "cultural competency." "Cultural competency" is in turn revealed by the document to be a code phrase for conformity to a distinctly political agenda. Professors, for example, would be required to show "demonstrable commitment to cultural competency;" evaluation of professorial "cultural competency" would then be tied to raises and promotions. Likewise, students would have to demonstrate their cultural competency by satisfying a course requirement in gender and sexuality. "Classified staff" would be required to attend sensitivity training sessions. The university would seek to alter the ethnic composition of its student body and to hire more women and minority faculty members.

The Associated Press reports that the university plans to double the number of minority students attending the university over the next five years, largely by funding minority scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students. The drafters of the plan do not seem to recognize the legal problems with such scholarships, which have been clearly marked by the Office of Civil Rights as discriminatory. This lack of awareness is particularly striking given that the university is presently coming under fire for a similarly discriminatory course registration quota system.

The outcry over the plan was immediate and unequivocal. Chemistry professor Michael Kellman has called the plan "Orwellian" and "totalitarian," noting that "I wasn't hired to be evaluated and even interrogated about cultural competency, whatever that is." According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 professors wrote to university president David B. Frohnmayer to inform him that they found the plan "frightening and offensive." They also noted that the university does not have the money to implement the kinds of programs envisioned by the plan. According to Frohnmayer, Oregon's diversity architects "have taken a step back from the draft plan, given the extent of the response." Stressing that the plan was clearly marked as a draft, he is now uttering words of appeasement and inclusiveness even as he emphasizes Oregon's commitment to implementing what is quite clearly a partisan political agenda: "We're wedded to the objectives of the plan, but not to particular steps in any lockstep way," he told the Chronicle. "We're a community that lives to move with a greater sense of consensus."

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