It never fails. Mention diversity, and immediately someone equates it to lack of quality and yells “quota” (see Paul Rochmis ’60’s letter in the June 3 issue). Yet, for most of this country’s history, the most prestigious, most lucrative, and most powerful jobs have been held almost exclusively by a white male numerical minority and no one seemed to worry about quality — and no one called it a quota, when in fact it was.
While there is a powerful social-justice argument that can be made for diversity in universities’ faculty ranks, an equally powerful argument is an academic/scholarly one. In the production and dissemination of knowledge it is essential to have as diverse a group of scholars as possible at the table, since the way we see and make sense of the world, the questions we ask, where we look for answers, how we interpret data (no, “facts” don’t speak for themselves), and how we make connections all are influenced by whether we grew up poor or rich, male or female, or black or white.
Referring to what is being proposed as a quota is what one does when one cannot muster an intelligent argument against diversity. The goal of diversity is first and foremost a goal about academic excellence and social justice, and kudos to Princeton for committing itself to this laudable and essential goal.