Diversity, Psychological Type and University Policy

Personality Type: Diversity, Political Opinion and Academic Environment

High Tech Echo Chamber

In a previous article on the James Damore Google Diversity confrontation, I provided a table of the distribution of the 16 personality types in the population based on gender. I’ve long thought the foundational idea of Isabel Myers’ seminal book Gifts Differing, was understanding and respecting psychological diversity. While Myers-Briggs, the MBTI, and Personality Type have obtained some recognition in a fairly large segment of society, there hasn’t been an equivalent respect to diversity of the mind.

Google’s treatment of James Damore was one exhibit of the lack of respect for psychological diversity. Another high tech icon, Apple, has provided another recent example. Denise Young Smith, a 20 year Apple veteran and the company’s VP of Inclusion & Diversity (and is of African-American descent), recently generated some controversy with comments at a conference in October as reported in Business Insider. One that raised more than just eyebrows was “Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around . . . because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads. And I’ve often told people a story –there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” Well yes, that can be quite possible. Just imagine how diverse would be the experiences and perspectives if the 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men represented 12 different personality types! In fact, if this diversity of personality types existed, I’d imagine there would be more disagreement than agreement in the room of 12 people whose “outer coverings” were quite similar.

It was encouraging to hear a leader in a major corporation recognize this broader understanding. However not long after making these comments, it was announced that Young Smith will be leaving Apple at the end of December. She also felt compelled to apologize in a letter to her Apple colleagues. So for a short-time there was a hole in the “Echo Chamber” at Apple. But beginning January 1, that will be fixed.

Academic Echo Chamber

Another recent story has gained much more broader attention, including lots of commentary on YouTube. The central figure is Lindsay Shepherd, a Teaching Assistant at Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Ancillary to this dust-up, but not insignificant, is Psychologist and Professor at Toronto University Jordan Peterson. Shepherd was later interviewed by the Rubin Report (about a 50 minute YouTube video). Briefly what happened was in a class discussion she was leading on communication and the use of pronouns, Shepherd showed a 5 minute clip of a longer video of a public television  show – The Agenda with Steve Palkin where Jordan Peterson was among three guests debating different viewpoints on a proposed Ontario law to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. Shepherd’s purpose was to stimulate discussion and she offered no endorsement of any of the views presented in the clip nor of Peterson himself. But when news of the airing of the clip exposing some of Peterson’s views to the class reached University administrators, Shepherd was called into a meeting with her supervising professor and two other administrators to essentially counsel and reprimand Shepherd for creating a “toxic climate” for some students. Shepherd was offended and hurt by the allegations made against her and of the general tenor of the comments that in her mind represented an environment antagonistic to the very purpose of a university education.

Unfortunately for the University, Shepherd recorded the meeting on her laptop and subsequently this recording reached YouTube – (full 42 minute recording here) and was re-cast by others reaching hundreds of thousands (maybe a million or more) of viewers. This spawned many other YouTube videos on Shepherd’s experience and on the larger issue of free speech and indoctrination on college campuses. Here’s one short video clip (5 minutes long) from a grandmotherly person who has worked in academia to give you a taste of the response to what happened to Shepherd. While her comments are insightful, I also found her amusing.




OK, so free speech is under assault and universities like Laurier, who used to be bastions of free speech, are now turning into Orwellian institutions to indoctrinate young minds. How does this relate to Personality Type?

It would be fascinating to be able to compare a personality type distribution of University Deans and Administrators from 40 years ago to now – 2017. I suspect there would be a meaningful change. My guess would be a shift involving more Feeling preference and less Thinking preference. The former would be more sensitive and empathetic to hurt feelings and students subjective responses. The latter would be much more tolerant of conflict and suspicious of subjective “facts.” Objectivity and search for truth are values more closely associated with the Thinking mind. Years ago I think universities to an extent stood apart from contemporary society, that separation was important to them preserving academic freedom of inquiry. Today I see an attempt to make university life more integrated with the community at large and to better mirror prevailing social values. I see this integration as another indicator of the Feeling mind having more influence in the character of universities.

I’m not arguing for removing Feeling from an influence in the nature of universities. It is a matter of balance and overall hierarchy of values. The university is a special place and needs to be different. There are long held institutional values that are associated with the Thinking mind and to a lesser extent I suspect the Intuitive mind that deserve to be preserved.

It’s an interesting evolution on campus. There seems to be a great deal of acceptance of diversity in appearance and life style. I’m Ok, you’re OK attitude towards these outer things. But not so much on the inner things, the world of ideas and the soul. There seems to be conformist pressures for and against certain ideas. And as I suggested in the above paragraph perhaps a shift in the hierarchy of values within the college institution.

Colleges and universities, it seems, are now one of the battlefields of the culture wars.

Links:

Values and Personality Type – Using examples from political figures I explore the relationship between values and personality type.

Jordan Peterson on the True Purpose of the University – A 6 minute video clip from a longer talk with Harvard students. Be sure to also read the comments below the video.

Jordan Peterson on Postmodernism and the Mask of Compassion – The full talk and interview at Harvard from which the above excerpt was drawn.

Gad Saad Interview with Lindsay Shephard – Lindsay discusses with Saad how things have changed for her and as she looks to the future.