Identity Groups: Am I Eligible for This Award?Randall Holcombe • Thursday November 8, 2018 10:00 AM PST •
I am a faculty member at Florida State University, and received an announcement that nominations are open for the Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award at my university. One criterion for nomination is: “Nominees from the faculty must demonstrate scholarly excellence and a personal commitment to diversity.” I do have a sustained record of scholarship, and at a university–an institution committed to the transmission of ideas to our students–my libertarian-leaning commitment to individual freedom and limited government (the ideas on which our nation was founded) puts me distinctly in the minority among faculty members and shows my commitment to diversity of thought in an institution whose faculty members often promote a left-wing ideology.
Can one be any more committed to diversity than to teach the ideas of liberty at an institution of higher learning when so many faculty members advocate more government control over our lives?
Here’s the issue, though. Another criterion for nomination is: “Individuals from all race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or other identity groups are eligible for the award.” Obviously, this criterion is intended to exclude some faculty members. Otherwise, the announcement just would have said “All faculty members are eligible for the award.”
It appears that one must be a member of an “identity group” to be eligible. That’s what the criterion I quoted plainly says. I’m an old white guy, and I’m thinking that “old white guy” isn’t really an identity group, so I am not eligible. (If everyone is a member of an identity group, there would be no reason to limit the award only to those who are members of identity groups.) Diversity of ideas is not an aspect of diversity that is mentioned in the criteria.
I’m not suggesting I have any chance of winning, but in an era that often places value on inclusion, why would the criteria for this award be phrased in a way that deliberately excludes some people from being considered?
Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America.