Monday, May 2, 2016

Intolerance in Diverse Environments

Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel Larusso: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have balance. Everything be better. Understand?
--The Karate Kid

Extending their previous work on victimhood culture, sociology professors Bradley Campbell (UCLA) and Jason Manning (WVU) propose how one form of cultural homogeneity amid other forms of diversity shapes conflict and moral climate.

Environments with little diversity give rise to moralities concerned with purity. To be moral is to share the belief's of one's ancestors, family, friends. Deviations from the norm become subject to ridicule and rejection. Heresy is seen as a serious offense.

Diverse environments, on the other hand, give rise to moralities of tolerance. Freedom of speech and religion are seen as rights. To be moral is to respect and value differences in others. Heresy is no longer offensive. On the contrary, opposition to diverse cultural expressions and opinions is viewed as offensive.

Why, then, do we see intolerance toward acts of 'underdiversity,' such as behaviors labeled as 'microaggressions,' in environments that seemingly value much diversity (such as college campuses)? Campbell and Manning argue that highly diverse environments become hypersensitive to even small challenges to diversity which results in a less tolerant environment. On its face, this argument does not resonate with me as it seems contradictory--i.e., diverse environments act like homogenous environments.

Their second explanation is more sensible. When administrative institutions populate diverse environments then those institutions become sources of moral dependency as individuals who feel offended by acts that challenge their views run to administrators for redress. As previously noted, this seems a straightforward extension of resource dependence theory as individuals become dependent on administrators to provide problem solving resources for their social coping problems.

In perhaps their freshest contribution, Campbell and Manning also argue that environments that are diverse on some dimensions but homogenous on others might paradoxically promote acts of intolerance. For example, college campuses, while diverse in many ways, are relatively homogenous when it comes to political views. As particular academic disciplines lean more to the left (e.g., sociology), then hostility grows in reaction to challenges to a discipline's sacred political beliefs.

Cultures that are not fully diverse--that have nested 'pockets of purity'--then, give rise to movements of intolerance.

The authors suggest two remedies in the context of university environments. One is to reduce the population of administrators to lower capacity for moral dependence that arises when individuals seek bureaucratic solutions to perceived offenses. Individuals would have to resolve conflicts on their own rather than leaning on administrators for help.

The other solution is to increase the political diversity of collegiate faculty. Balance left with more right, for example, in order to create a more stable and robust learning environment in higher ed.

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