The November 2010 issue of University Affairs – a monthly Canadian magazine – welcomed its readers with an eye-catching cover story entitled "Racism in the academy," by Harriet Eisenkraft. In the article, Ms. Eisenkraft interviewed numerous academics from across the Canadian university landscape, all 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, for instance, says that racism is still "regularized and embedded in the social process" of Canadian academic hiring, promotion, governance, research, and in the curriculum.
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 this 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 racism?
In fact, it is the preponderance of progressives in the faculties of arts across Canada that sustains and encourages such outlandish claims as those contained in Ms. Eisenkraft's article. In case we need to be reminded again, "studies in both [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, has 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 university hiring committees and the imposition of politically correct speech codes designed to exterminate dissent. Dr. Li is not an isolated figure fighting for racial justice. In fact, his employer, the University of Saskatchewan, 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 colleges, programs, and departments housed at the university are "Discrimination and Harassment Prevention," "Native Studies" and "Women's and Gender Studies."
A similar set of facts can be adduced for all the academics cited in Ms. Eisenkraft's 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. 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 cited in Ms. Eisenkraft's article offered 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% of faculty positions are held by visible minorities, whereas 24% 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.
Canadian universities have worked like a gold mine for progressives. Many of the professors cited in the article have multiple research grants, contracts with government departments, awards for research and teaching, are fellows of the Royal Academy and, in at least one case, is a member of the Order of Canada. I could go on for pages citing their academic honours. University Affairs might have done its readers a greater service publishing an article entitled "The Racism Industry in Academia."
A longer version of this article first appeared on the web site of University Affairs. To read the full article, please visit universityaffairs.ca/a-response-to-racism-in-the-academy.aspx.