University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emeritus W. Lee Hansen has openly criticized a new diversity policy at the school which he claims recommends assigning race-based grades to students in its push to make the university more diverse.
School officials say, however, that Hansen's understanding of the new policy couldn't be more "further from the truth."
Writing in an op-ed for The John William Pope Center last Wednesday, Hansen called the language of the new policy, "education babble," and said both university staff and students have embraced it without question.
"Although much of the language is a thicket of clichés, no one dared challenge it. Moreover, there was no probing of the ramifications of the plan. Apparently, 'diversity' has become such a sacred cow that even tenured professors are afraid to question it in any way," wrote Lee.
Hansen later charged that the new policy urges race-based grading.
"Especially shocking is the language about 'equity' in the distribution of grades. Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, 'historically underrepresented racial/ethnic' students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students," said Hansen.
Of the more than 42,000 students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, minority students make up 13 percent of the student population, with Asians, at 5.3 percent, making up nearly half of that share, according to the school's website.
On Monday, professor Patrick Sims, chief diversity officer and interim vice provost for diversity and climate at UW-Madison, dismissed Hansen's claims in a statement posted on the UW-Madison website.
"The idea that UW-Madison will begin to base student grading or the make-up of programs or majors on race or ethnicity has circulated on the Internet in the wake of a recent opinion column by emeritus UW-Madison professor Lee Hansen. Allow me set the record straight: Nothing could be further from the truth," noted Sims.
"Regrettably, Hansen's assertion that the campus' most recent strategic diversity framework embraces a quota system for apportioning grades by race, is a gross misrepresentation of our current efforts," he added.
Sims said the document cited by Hansen in his op-ed is not the current diversity policy, but another called the UW System Inclusive Excellence framework, which was adopted by the Board of Regents in 2009.
That document endorses a concept called "Representational Equity" which is defined as: "Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades."
This concept, Sims explained, is based on the research of Estela Bensimon, co-director of the Center for Urban Education and professor of higher education at the University of Southern California.
"This approach is not reflected by UW-Madison's plan. However, Hansen's interpretation is out of context and reflects a misunderstanding. Bensimon's point of proportional equity is intended as an outcome of plans like inclusive excellence being implemented and valued by institutions," wrote Sims.
"This proportional and equitable distribution of grades arises (without intervention at the time of grading) by fostering living and learning spaces that are inclusive of historically marginalized students so that they can do their best learning and earn better grades; not through the 'redistribution' of artificially-enhanced grades," he added.