Is this a problem? I think it is. And might a conscious hiring effort on the part of universities – that is, an affirmative action program – help remedy it? I think it would.
To see why, have a look at the Supreme Court’s landmark 1978 affirmative action decision, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The ruling barred such quotas for minorities, ruling that race and ethnicity could be used as a “plus” factor – but never as the only factor – in university admissions. The Bakke decision upheld special consideration in admissions for racial and ethnic minorities, on the grounds that “diversity” would enhance universities’ intellectual life.
In his opinion, Justice Lewis F. Powell quoted the Court’s 1967 ruling in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, which struck down mandatory loyalty oaths for public school and university teachers and other state employees. “The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through a wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection,'" the Keyishian decision declared.
Powell also cited in his ruling a 1977 article by William G. Bowen, the then-president of Princeton University and one of the nation’s most articulate defenders of affirmative action. According to Mr. Bowen, as quoted by Powell, a racially diverse university would help students “to learn from their differences and to stimulate one another to reexamine even their most deeply held assumptions about themselves and their world.” The passages from Bowen that Powell references included the observations of a Princeton graduate student, who stated that “people do not learn very much when they are surrounded only by the likes of themselves.”