Chancellor Cantor Explores Connection Between Diversity and Democracy in Princeton Podcast

Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor speaks about the connection between diversity and democracy in a newly released podcast of the New Books Network, a consortium of author-interview podcast channels dedicated to public education. Joined by Earl Lewis, the two discussed a book series they co-edit for Princeton University Press titled, “Our Compelling Interests.’’

Lewis, a former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is now a distinguished professor of history, Afroamerican and African Studies, and public policy and director of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan.

During a time of national and global conflicts, Cantor said it was important to think of diversity beyond the framework of the courts and political opinion. Instead, the focus should be how it functions in the everyday lives of Americans.

“Think about the ways in which we bring up our children, live in our neighborhoods. It’s about getting people to see that they may not believe in the same common good as you but you might find common ground.’’’ said Cantor, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and member of the National Academy of Medicine. She was closely involved in the defense of affirmative action in 2003 Supreme Court cases Grutter and Gratz, when she was provost at the University of Michigan.

The "Our Compelling Interests" series, which began in 2016, focuses on diversity in racial, gender, socioeconomic, religious, and other forms. Some of the titles in this series so far include "The Walls Around Opportunity: The Failure of Colorblind Policy for Higher Education by Gary Orfield," "Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise" by Eboo Patel, and "The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy," by Scott E. Page. The title of the first book in the series is "The Value of Diversity in a Prosperous Society."

The series demonstrates that diversity is an essential strength that gives nations a competitive edge and a prescription for thriving now and in the future.

“The Value of Diversity” essay collection begins with an introduction about the demographic transitions reshaping American life, and the contributors present a broad-ranging look at the value of diversity to democracy and civil society. 

They explore the paradoxes of diversity and inequality in the fifty years following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, and they review the ideals that have governed our thinking about social cohesion—such as assimilation, integration, and multiculturalism—before delving into the new ideal of social connectedness. 

The book also examines the demographics of the American labor force and its implications for college enrollment, graduation, the ability to secure a job, business outcomes, and the economy.

The complete podcast may be accessed here.