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This article is reprinted from University Affairs.
The November 2010 issue of University Affairs welcomes its readers with a rather eye-catching, if predictable, cover story, “Racism in the academy,” by Harriet Eisenkraft, in which up to 20 academics from across the Canadian university landscape are interviewed and cited in support of the sweeping allegation that “many non-Caucasian scholars still feel excluded or denied opportunities” in our universities. After five decades of official multiculturalism and three decades of mandated employment equity, Peter Li, a professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, says that racism is still a pervasive (not a “random” or incidental) feature; “regularized and embedded in the social process” of Canadian academic hiring, promotion, governance, research, and in the curriculum.
Dr. Li is hardly a lone voice. Malinda Smith, a political science professor at the University of Alberta, maintains that, for all the programs and the offices created in the name of equity and diversity, attention to issues affecting minority scholars are still “perpetually deferred.” The article states that every new report on systematic racism has had the unfortunate effect of producing a “backlash.” According to Audrey Kobayashi, a professor of geography at Queen’s University, one of the effects of the backlash “is to prevent progressive people from acting progressively” in the universities.
These are her words; I am not trying to be amusing. How can the most leftist institution in Canada be accused of curtailing the efforts of progressives to fight against “structural racism”? This is exactly the point: the preponderance of progressives in the faculties of arts across Canada is the very ground sustaining and encouraging these outlandish claims. In case we need to be reminded again, “studies in both nations [Canada and the United states] confirm that the humanities and social sciences are dominated by scholars with left-wing opinions and values” (as Christine Overall, cross-appointed with the department of philosophy and women’s studies at Queen’s, had acknowledged in an article, “Lefty Profs,” published two years ago in University Affairs).
It is well known that progressives have been able for decades now to exercise their control through domination of hiring committees and the imposition of politically correct speech codes designed to exterminate dissent. Dr. Li is not some isolated figure fighting for racial justice; he belongs to a department dedicated to teaching students to “think critically about the world around them” and “committed to link the aims of the discipline with the mission of the University of Saskatchewan”. Saskatchewan, like many universities in Canada, officially calls itself a “progressive university” committed to “employment equity” for women and visible minorities.
Of the 15 full-time faculty members teaching in Dr. Li’s department, eight are females, and three of the males, together with Dr. Li, are visible minorities of Asian origin. What is more, most of these members have research interests that touch on race, ethnicity, multiculturalism and social inequality. Among the many socialistic colleges, programs, and departments housed in Saskatchewan are: “Discrimination and Harassment Prevention,” “Family Medicine,” “Indian Teacher Education Program,” “Native Studies,” “Women’s and Gender Studies”.
A similar set of facts can be adduced for all the academics cited in this article. Jeffrey Reitz, who claims that white people tend to trivialize the experiences of minorities as unimportant, is director of ethnic and immigration studies at the University of Toronto, housed in a department in which the research and teaching areas are singularly left-oriented in character: “health and mental health,” “networks and community,” “gender and family,” “crime and socio-legal studies,” “immigration and ethnic relations,” “stratification, work, and labour markets.” Constance Backhouse, who wants universities to “take the lead” in dismantling the “mythology” that Canada is a “race-less” society, belongs to the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa, wherein the “Message from the Dean” states categorically and imperially that research and teaching are expected to be pursued “in a progressive atmosphere where issues of social justice are at the forefront of student and faculty concerns”.
This influence of progressives over our universities may explain why few of the specialists cite any solid evidence to substantiate their claims. Working within an audience of true believers, they have grown accustomed to soft-ball questions and easy endorsements. Pretty much all the “evidence” cited is anecdotal, based on “feelings”, and in no way the foundation for making a “systemic racism” allegation. The one meagre fact offered is that “about 14 percent of faculty positions are held by visible minorities, whereas 24 percent of all PhD-holders in Canada are visible minorities.” It does not take statistical expertise to realize that this claim is devoid of any meaning unless one offers a system-wide, representative set of statistical indicators on all the positions held by all ethnic groups, on all the PhD-holders, on all the academic openings in the last few decades (rather than merely looking at the ethnicity of academics who were employed decades ago), on all the number of actual applicants for jobs, and on all the respective qualifications of the applicants.
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