"There are two ideas now in the academic left that weren't there 10 years ago," says Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, in The Wall Street Journal. "One is that everyone is racist because of unconscious bias, and the other is that everything is racist because of systemic racism."
Do you believe that? Before you give a quick answer of "yes," think about it. Do you really think that you, yourself, discriminate illegally against your employees? Do you treat your white employees better than your minority employees?
Regardless of your answer to those questions, if you start hiring people who believe what they've been taught about racism, how does that look for your business? Every project assignment, every promotion, every time you ask someone to stay late can be seen through the eyes of racism. Which means that anything you do can result in official complaints. While the legal standard is different than the emotional standard of a new grad, defending against these accusations can be draining, emotionally and financially.
And it's not just racism--it's sexism.In 2011 the Office for Civil Rights issued a "Dear Colleague" letter, based on Title IX, which advised Colleges and Universities on how to treat cases of sexual misconduct--from everything from harassment to rape. While it might seem like a good thing for universities to actively investigate such charges, the end result has been a disaster.
For instance, a young man was accused of sexual assault and expelled from Amherst even though he had evidence that not only had the woman consented to the activity, he had been unconscious when she performed oral sex on him. The woman didn't file a complaint until years later and the man wasn't allowed to introduce evidence in his favor.
In another case, tenured Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis went through a Title IX investigation (which she did eventually win) based on an essay she wrote, questioning the "sexual paranoia on campus." She said, among other things, that "women have spent the past century and a half demanding to be treated as consenting adults. Now a cohort on campuses [is] demanding to relinquish those rights, which I believe is a disastrous move for feminism." Students complained and Kipnis was thrown into an investigation where she wasn't allowed an attorney.
Jezebel quotes Kipnis' response as "the new [consent] codes infantilized students while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives, and here were students demanding to be protected by university higher-ups from the affront of someone's ideas, which seemed to prove my point."
How does this impact your business? Think about sexual harassment charges. When an employee has a consensual affair with a superior and then changes her mind about the consensual nature of it two years later, how are you going to respond? You're required to investigate, but the evidence is two years old and you're not a police officer and you don't have police powers. The employee, coming out of this university environment, will expect you to side with her immediately. If you don't, she will sue. If she can simply get an attorney to take her case, you're out thousands of dollars defending yourself, and if it hits the internet, you can be crucified in social media.
It's a huge mind shift--where people are always taught to appeal to an authority and that authority is you, but you're expected to side with the complainant. That's not how the business works, and you'll prevail (hopefully) in the courts, but do you want to go through that hassle over imagined racial or gender slights?
If you don't, you'll want to be actively aware and involved in what is happening in the universities.
The Wall Street Journal continues with Haidt's viewpoint.
If you're not a student or professor, why should you care about snowflakes in their igloos? Because, Mr. Haidt argues, what happens on campus affects the "health of our nation." Ideological and political homogeneity endangers the quality of social-science research, which informs public policy. "Understanding the impacts of immigration, understanding the causes of poverty--these are all absolutely vital," he says. "If there's an atmosphere of intimidation around politicized issues, it clearly influences the research."
Today's college students also are tomorrow's leaders--and employees. Companies are already encountering problems with recent graduates unprepared for the challenges of the workplace. "Work requires a certain amount of toughness," Mr. Haidt says. "Colleges that prepare students to expect a frictionless environment where there are bureaucratic procedures and adult authorities to rectify conflict are very poorly prepared for the workplace. So we can expect a lot more litigation in the coming few years."
You should be concerned. You should be very concerned. For state universities, you should let your legislatures know about your concerns. For private schools, you'll want to let your Alma Mater know, especially if that knowledge is tied to your usual donations.
We should not tolerate racism or sexual harassment in our businesses, but we can't live where we see racism and sexism behind every viewpoint we might disagree with. If you value diversity, you'll need to remember to value diversity of thought, which our universities aren't that great at encouraging in the current environment.