Teresa Sullivan and Diversity: Then and Now

Glenn Ricketts

Recently, Discriminations editor John Rosenberg pondered the case of Teresa Sullivan, the summarily sacked and promptly reinstated president of the University of Virginia.  Was she, he asked, an “affirmative action” hire in the sense that her career - which included several previous high-level academic administrative posts - benefited from her extensive track record as a “diversity” administrator. Support for “affirmative action” in the form of race-based preferences has long been de rigueur in academic hiring, especially at the senior administrative level, and as Rosenberg demonstrates, Sullivan certainly measured up. 

And if it’s impossible to be precise about the extent to which it advanced Sullivan’s own climb up the academic ladder, it’s hard to imagine that she or anyone could get to that point without affirming how gung-ho for “diversity” they are.   If you think you’d like to be a provost or a college president, just try and find a mainstream job listing where the phrase “strong commitment to diversity,” doesn’t occur liturgically.  If you do hold views even slightly at odds with the reigning “diversity” colossus, you’d better hope that you’re not pressed too hard on the Fisher case, and I'd also suggest not mentioning that you read this web page.  Probably not worth the trouble applying, in that case, especially if you feel strongly that individual merit trumps group identity. 

But lo: as Rosenberg reveals in this follow-up article over at PJ Media, that is exactly how Sullivan once viewed affirmative action herself, far back in the day.  She was, it seems, a forceful and articulate opponent of group preferences, and Rosenberg has the citations to prove it.  Hardly seems to resemble the “diversity” enthusiast who has engineered and implemented so many programs based on principles that she once eschewed.  

And while it’s not specifically clear what might have induced Sullivan to change her mind,  you can't seriously think she'd be a college president right now if she hadn’t.

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