Dear friends, despite knowing that the odds are always against publication, I'm sometimes so concerned about something that shows up in one of our so-called newspapers of record that I cast fate to the wind and send a letter to the editor. Below is a letter I wrote this morning after reading an opinion piece about DEI. The draft below is a slight modification of the one I sent to the New York Times. It includes some attempts to provoke a smile as you read :-)
I was so disappointed and made so weary by your choice to give a platform to Chris Rufo and those he represents on the subject of diversity, equity, and inclusion that I didn't know if I could (or should have to) find the time to point out the obvious and severe flaws in his argument (Diversity Programs Miss the Point of a Liberal College Education).
It occurred to me then that ChatGPT (in this case ChatGPT4) could probably do this work in short order, so I simply presented the AI engine with Rufo's essay with a request to examine his argument. I hope that in addition to ChatGPT, any eighth-grader worth their critical thinking credentials also would be able to point out the bad logic and biases in Rufo's work - but I didn't have any eighth-graders handy.
Below is the text of my request and ChatGPT's response. I hope you might consider sharing it. With all due respect, I think it's irresponsible to present the specious argument Rufo proffers without a corrective counterpoint.
[My request of ChatGPT4): If it seems like a reasonable thing to do, please find the flaws in and counterpoints to the following argument: [Here I simply copied the full text of Rufo's article, which can be read here (behind the New York Times paywall).]
ChatGPT4 assessment of Rufo's argument:
This argument, while cogently presented, offers several points to critique and counter.
Firstly, it's crucial to differentiate between the idea of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and how it is implemented in specific contexts. Criticizing specific instances of poorly implemented DEI programs should not be equated with rejecting the overall concept.
Secondly, the argument seems to presuppose that the primary purpose of a university is the pursuit of truth, detached from social realities. It dismisses the idea that universities can also be engines of social change and social justice. However, the liberal arts tradition is rooted not only in intellectual exploration but also in the nurturing of civic responsibility and the promotion of societal progress. The pursuit of truth is not mutually exclusive with the pursuit of social justice. Indeed, understanding the realities of systemic inequities can be an integral part of understanding the world we inhabit.
Thirdly, the argument implies that DEI initiatives necessarily suppress free speech and stifle debate. However, this is not inherently true. Properly implemented DEI initiatives encourage a broader array of voices to be heard, fostering a richer and more nuanced debate. Inclusion doesn't mean shutting down differing viewpoints, but rather, it means ensuring that marginalized voices are also heard.
Regarding the studies that allegedly show DEI initiatives do not work, it's crucial to distinguish between DEI training (which is what the cited studies focus on) and DEI as an overall approach. A particular training method may be ineffective, but that doesn't mean the entire concept is faulty.
Moreover, the argument seems to conflate political activism with political indoctrination. Encouraging students to engage with social justice issues and fostering a sense of civic responsibility does not mean enforcing a specific ideological view.
Lastly, the colorblind approach to equality, which the author advocates, has been critiqued for oversimplifying and minimizing the realities of systemic and institutionalized racism and bias. Recognizing and addressing these realities is not about favoring specific groups but ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities and fair treatment.
In conclusion, it's important to recognize that critique of specific implementations of DEI should not be taken as a valid argument against the necessity of DEI itself. Instead, these critiques should guide us in developing more effective, comprehensive, and fair DEI initiatives.