Staff Reads: The Diversity Bargain

Image shows picture of Natasha Warikoo's book, The Diversity bargain, next to an agenda entitled W: Staff Reads.
Image courtesy of Nedralani Mailo.

We are really excited to talk about this quarter’s Staff Reads!

What is Staff Reads? Inspired by the UW Tacoma Strategic Plan and Real Lit[erature], Staff Reads is a collaboration between the Center for Equity and Inclusion, The Center for Student Involvement, and the UW Tacoma Library.  The reading group seeks to create greater awareness and discussion of the experiences being had by our students, staff, and community members.  By interacting with non-fiction texts that discuss different issues being faced in our community, the reading group provides opportunities to dialogue and learn from each other.  Additional benefits have included creating community by reducing isolation, and enhancing campus education through peer-based discussion groups.  Staff Reads is open to any person employed by UW Tacoma in any capacity.

This quarter we are reading Natasha Warikoo’s The Diversity Bargain.  According to the University of Chicago Press — her publisher — the book

deeply explores how students themselves think about merit and race at a uniquely pivotal moment: after they have just won the most competitive game of their lives and gained admittance to one of the world’s top universities.

In today’s meeting, held in the Snoqualmie Building’s beautiful Chihuly Room, we explored some of the following questions.  They offer some insight into the broad-ranging issues the book — and by extension, Staff Reads at UW Tacoma — tackles:

  • Meritocracy as a concept was created as a criticism of social structures by a sociologist. Ironically, the argument that Michael Young lays out in his satirical novella is that because Britain was never invaded or rocked by total destruction, they were never motivated to restructure and rebuild, reinforcing systems of nepotism. Similarly, it seems that Britain had no civil rights-based movements to push issues of race-based inclusion or diversity. Warikoo presents this as an interesting place of divergence between the US and Britain and something that she will discuss.
    • How does this lack of conflict interact with ideas of merit and success?
    • How does the presence of intentional push back against systems and structures affect the people trapped within the system?
  • How do you make sense of the recent admission scandals at elite institutions such as Stanford in light of Warikoo’s book, especially when we look at the idea of meritocracy vs. entitlement?
    • Would the fact that people cheated and bribed their way in enforce or dismantle the concept of meritocracy? Why or why not?

We are happy to answer any questions about Staff Reads, Real Lit, or some of our other programming, and would love to welcome you to our next discussion session! Come see us at the reference desk in SNO or contact us through our guide to Book Clubs at UW Tacoma.

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