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If you want to understand how the diversity racket has taken over academia, look no further than the Canada Research Chair program, where universities are twisting themselves into pretzels to meet quotas imposed by diversity bureaucrats.

The Canada Research Chair program is supposed to be about excellence in scholarship. The aim of the program is to propel Canada into the first rank of research leaders in the world by providing funds – around $265-million this year– for more than 2,000 researchers across the country at universities large and small.

But since 2006, the program has focused increasingly on quotas. That was the year a legal settlement between the federal government and eight female researchers required the program to set targets for women, Indigenous people, visible minorities and people with disabilities. Although much progress has been made, it hasn’t been good enough for some. So now, the bureaucrats moved the goalposts.

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The old quotas (let’s just call them quotas, since there is a threatened penalty for failure to comply) were based on an estimate of eligible applicants in each category. For example, if women make up 35 per cent of the eligible candidates at a given university, then women should hold 35 per cent of the seats.But now, instead of being based on eligible candidates, the quota is based on the share of each disadvantaged group in the general Canadian population. So now, it doesn’t matter how many women are in the hiring pool. All that matters is that women make up 50.9 per cent of the population, and therefore must also make up 50.9 per cent of the Canada Research Chairs.The universities have 10 years to implement these goals. The new targets for the other groups are 22 per cent for visible minorities, 7.5 per cent for people with disabilities and 4.9 per cent for Indigenous people.

Why now? Good question. The equity numbers have hit historic highs. Currently, 33.5 per cent of Research Chairs are held by women: 15.9 per cent by visible minorities, 1.6 per cent by people with disabilities and 2.1 per cent by Indigenous people. But someone has decided that progress has been too slow. The new quotas have the powerful endorsement of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as well as the support of the federal government, whose science minister, Kirsty Duncan, has previously sent out warning shots that the universities are being too slow to comply.

In other words, the program isn’t about excellence any more. It’s about hitting your quotas – or perhaps suffer a reduction in funding. It’s about elevation of the group above the individual, for reasons (gender, skin colour) that have nothing to do with excellence. It is also about blatant discrimination against white men, who, as it is, scarcely stand a chance.

Oh, spare us, a lot of people say. White men have been coasting on their privilege for the past 10,000 years. Time to give someone else a turn.

The objective here is not equal opportunity. That’s not good enough any more. Today, there is a growing demand for equal outcomes. And if some group isn’t getting an equal outcome, the diversity bureaucrats know what and whom to blame: Systemic discrimination, and the tyranny of white men, who don’t want to cede their hegemonic power. Even university presidents are helpless before this juggernaut.

Could there be other reasons why these designated groups are lagging behind? There could. For example, why are women so underrepresented in the hard sciences such as engineering and physics? The standard explanation is that gender socialization and unconscious bias scare women away. But we have to take into account that as a group, men and women have naturally different interests and aptitudes – a fact that’s been established in the scientific literature. If anything, as one noted study in the scientific journal PNAS found, women’s hiring applications beat out the men’s by two to one. As the researchers said, “Anti-female bias in academic hiring has ended.”

Then there is the troublesome issue of – as McGill University pointed out – what a “disability” is, and how to identify people who have one. As for Indigenous academics, it’s safe to say the supply-demand problem is acute. Only about one-half of 1 per cent of the general Canadian population have PhDs, and so the number of Indigenous people with PhDs is also vanishingly small. At least one university has come up with an obvious solution: create more positions in Indigenous studies.

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I have a strong impression that logic is not the strong suit of Canada’s bloated diversity bureaucracy, which is so powerful and so embedded in university life that we will never be able to get rid of it. And don’t think this has nothing to do with you. What starts in universities has a way of spreading through the public service and other publicly funded institutions. You have been warned.

On top of that, the diversicrats will never run out of new mountains to climb and injustices to remedy. Next up: Canada Research Chairs for LGTBQ people, who may soon be asked to disclose the deepest recesses of their personal lives in the name of equity. Always remember: Inequality never sleeps.

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