Spector: You’re Not Tripping

The First-Year Trips directors have gone nuts for diversity.

by Ryan Spector | 2/2/18 12:45am

When First-Year Trips director Lucia Pierson ’18 and assistant director Dalia Rodriguez-Caspeta ’18 told me that my failed candidacy for directorate was unrelated to diversity considerations, I almost believed them. Merit, they insisted in a private email, was the driving force behind their decisions.

But I didn’t quite buy it — and for good reason.

This year, the Trips directors’ obsession with diversity verges on the inane. Described as “majority female” in The Dartmouth, this year’s directorate, excluding Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta, is nearly 80 percent female. Yes — of the 19-person Trips directorate, there are merely four males on the staff.

Perhaps The Dartmouth is right, and the term “majority” does, in fact, describe the gender imbalance on this year’s directorate. But when nearly 80 percent of Trips’ executives are the same gender, such an imbalance is no longer just a majority. It is ludicrous.

Sensing how poorly their selections might be perceived, Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta pay at least superficial homage to the notion of merit. “But I also want to make it clear that these 19 people were chosen purely based on merit,” Pierson told The Dartmouth.

This statement is nothing but an exercise in mental gymnastics — and I doubt the director and assistant director believe it themselves. Just one sentence later, Rodriguez-Caspeta notes that she and Pierson were “intentional in the way [they] read the applications,” which might explain the virtual erasure of men from directorate, Rodriguez-Caspeta implies. Even more explicitly, the article originally noted that both women “consciously considered various identity representations in their decision-making process.”

The article has since been amended — as I was writing this — to stipulate that diversity considerations “would have only come into play had there been a lack of diverse identities in this year’s applicant pool.” Why, then, does this defensive, we-prioritize-identity-but-actually-merit language permeate the article?

It doesn’t take a Rufus Choate Scholar to recognize doublespeak as blunt and unimpressive as this. The real calculus of Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta is clear: Credentials matter not, but skin tone, womanhood and claims of marginalized status do. Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta may believe in merit, but it is a twisted form of it, a pernicious theory that sees race, gender and identity as dictating qualification. In the eyes of genuine, concerned progressives, this is called prejudice. This is what it looks like to systematically devalue minorities, to reduce them to nothing but a plate on the diversity buffet.

There is a great deal of irony in Pierson’s and Rodriguez-Caspeta’s appeals to inclusion, because men are clearly not included in that vision. Although the application information is not publicly available, perhaps more women applied — but it is unlikely that four times as many women applied as men. Regardless, recruitment is a core responsibility of the director and assistant director, who therefore have a powerful influence on the composition of the applicant pool. Perhaps female applicants simply wrote superior applications — but no self-respecting person could believe that one gender, on principle, is four times more likely to write a winning application than the other. Finally, if women did apply at such a high rate, why did Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta prioritize the population overrepresented in the application pool?

The director and assistant director may claim that proportionality does not apply to directorate, because directorate is primarily focused on logistics, and not trippee interaction. This is, of course, wildly untrue — as a former Crooling and trip leader, I know that Croo captains regularly and intimately interact with trippees, as do the director and assistant director themselves. Above all, it’s the principle that is most disturbing. Do the directors really believe that men are uniformly privileged during Trips, that no identity could be “historically underrepresented and under-served” if it intersects with the male gender and that, from a programmatic perspective, men have less valuable insights than women?

Upon publication of this column, I can assure you that I will be called bitter. That is correct. I can assure you that my white, male phenotype will be criticized — whether publicly or internally — as the malevolent force motivating this response. That is not correct. It is, however, evidence of the degree to which Trips is attached to identity, rather than reason.

Make no mistake: I love Trips. And I support affirmative action-style policies. But I do not support the extreme application of a diversity policy. And I do not support a directorate that is unrecognizable as representatives of Dartmouth’s student body.

No matter how many men Trips excludes from directorate, the Class of 2022 will still be roughly 50 percent male. As they do each year, male members of the class will look for Trips role models who share their gender identity, just as any person might. But they will find fewer of them, because Trips is apparently no longer for trippees. It is for ideology, no matter how cruel the implications.

Spector is a member of the Class of 2019.

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