Dianne Harrison is the new president of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). It’s a small college in the Golden State but it sure is loaded with diversity. How do I know? Because Dianne has written a letter to the entire university, telling everyone how diverse they are and, more importantly, what a great person she is because she loves diversity. In her short email of around 800 words she refers to diversity no less than 17 times (and I have highlighted them in bold letters). Because it is so dripping with Orwellian double-speak, I thought it would be fun to reproduce it here. I thought it would be even more fun to include some of my sarcastic observations between each paragraph. President Harrison’s words are in italics. Mine are in a font called Times New Heavy Sarcasm. I sincerely hope you all enjoy my diverse observations and that you all enjoy them in your own diverse ways!
In the almost six weeks since I arrived on campus I have felt warmly welcomed by staff, faculty, and students. I look forward to meeting and getting to know many more of you as we quickly approach the fall semester.
It’s good that President Harrison was greeted warmly by all the students. History has shown that when miscommunications occur between Presidents named “Harrison” and various ethnic minorities there can often be conflicts and even bloodshed. Remember Tippecanoe? Unfortunately, CSUN does not have a Native American Studies program. I am told they thought about it but they had their reservations. Fortunately, though, CSUN is planning an M.A. program in Intercultural Communications. There will be more on that later.
Since my arrival I have grown to appreciate even more the many strengths of this university I now call home. Anticipating much busier days ahead, I want to take the opportunity now during the relative quiet of the summer months to offer just a few initial thoughts and impressions, and specifically share some of my observations about the extraordinary diversity that exists on this campus.
Personally, I thought this statement was highly discriminatory. Obviously, blind people cannot see diversity and deaf people cannot hear it. Does that mean they don’t appreciate diversity? Clearly, CSUN needs to develop programs in Blind Studies and Deaf Studies. Queerer things have happened in the world of diversity.
As I began to acquaint myself more fully with the history and present strengths of CSUN, I was struck by the depth of this diversity. I read with interest the rich history of activism for civil rights surrounding the early founding of our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the Chicana/o Studies and Pan-African Studies programs. Presently, there exists no true majority race or ethnicity on this campus—the traditional census categories simply do not describe our community.
That’s good news, isn’t it? If there is no majority then there can be no oppression at the hands of the majority. So maybe we can stop talking about race. And since there is so much diversity that most people cannot be confined to traditional categories we can just do away with affirmative action.
I have become more familiar with our degree programs in Deaf Studies, Asian American Studies, Queer Studies, Central American Studies, Jewish Studies, Spanish-Language Journalism, Languages and Cultures, Teaching English as a Second Language, and more. Ever responsive to the changing needs of the community and the global landscape, we are introducing new programs like the planned M.A. in Intercultural Communications and minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. And I am proud to have learned that for 27 years we have hosted the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, the largest of its kind in the world. Our commitment to supporting students of all backgrounds is demonstrated well by our extraordinary National Center on Deafness (NCOD) which enrolls the largest number of deaf students of any mainstream university in the U.S. I was also fascinated to learn that we educate the largest number of Armenian students outside the nation of Armenia.
Oops! They already have Deaf Studies. But why is there no CSUN Blind Studies program? And why isn’t this in their vision statement!
Before arriving on campus I was impressed to read that CSUN ranks 10th in the U.S. in bachelor’s degrees awarded to under-represented students. I was further impressed that CSUN is 5th in the U.S. and 1st in California for bachelor’s degrees and 10th nationally for master’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students—graduates who are now making an impact in California and beyond.
I have one quick question before we proceed: if “the traditional census categories” do not accurately describe your student population, then how did you accurately measure under- representation?
Student organizations on campus include nearly every cultural group imaginable and a growing number of international students have chosen to study at Cal State Northridge. Certainly the definition of diversity at Cal State Northridge has expanded to include world cultures.
That’s a start. But many people in California are so crazy they think they are from other planets. Should we not expand our notion of diversity to other worlds as well?
I could go on and on. In short, CSUN is a university where diversity abounds, and in diverse ways! This is a university that offers diversity, values diversity, and thrives on diversity. The education offered our students in the classroom is amplified by the cultural competency nurtured from having studied, worked, played, and lived with students who bring an array of differences to the experience. Our students also benefit from studying and interacting with a diverse group of faculty, staff, and administrators. Students leave Cal State Northridge ready and able to succeed in a diverse world, with the preparation and skills so necessary in today’s global economy and multicultural society.
Yes, I know you could go on and on, sister. But mentioning diversity seven times in one paragraph was enough. Could you maybe wrap things up pretty soon? I have to clean my assault rifle before my girlfriend is finished cooking my supper. Then, I have to finish reading The Bridges of Madison County.
Clearly, diversity at Cal State Northridge is celebrated, nurtured, and held as a central and core value. I have seen that the CSUN community takes pride in the diversity of its students, staff, and faculty. While diversity inevitably yields conflicting views, this is no excuse for delegitimizing or dehumanizing others. Likewise, actions such as discrimination, harassment, and the expression of bigotry are abhorrent and threaten our core values—we simply do not tolerate them. This is essential to ensuring that Cal State Northridge is and remains a safe and productive learning and working environment. As your president, I am responsible for ensuring this.
It is good to know that you will not tolerate intolerance – especially when it comes to dehumanizing others. Maybe I could visit your campus with some pictures of aborted babies. If someone in Women’s Studies denies their humanity, will the Office of Equity and Diversity step in and investigate?
The university has procedures and due process in place for investigating and dealing with all complaints of discrimination and harassment, and I want to make sure that our entire community is aware that this university takes seriously all such allegations. On this campus, the Office of Equity and Diversity is specifically designated to receive complaints of discrimination and harassment based on protected categories. Additionally, any supervisor or faculty member can receive such allegations and should engage the Office of Equity and Diversity for further assistance. This extends to all students, all employees, all visitors, anyone who is part of our community.
This is odd. The Office of Equity and Diversity is designed to receive complaints, but only if someone is in a protected category? Is this discriminatory? And why is it necessary in the context of race if, “there exists no true majority race or ethnicity” at CSUN?
I am excited to be here at Cal State Northridge. I sincerely appreciate our diverse learning and working environment and our community where differences are celebrated. We all have opportunities to learn from, be challenged by, and enjoy others whose life experiences can enrich our own. I look forward to meeting and getting to know more of you, learning from you, and working collaboratively to enrich the incredible assets that CSUN has to offer.
That all sounds wonderful. But wouldn’t the environment be better if you weren’t obsessed with identity politics? Wouldn’t things be more diverse if people in the institution weren’t repeating the same words over and over again?
Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Feminists Say the Darndest Things: A Politically Incorrect Professor Confronts "Womyn" On Campus.