Two Roads Diverge in a Wood: Indifference to the Difference Between ‘Diversity’ and ‘Heterogeneity’ Should Be Resisted on Epistemic and Moral Grounds

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Shavit, Ayelet; Kolumbus, Anat; Ellison, Aaron M.
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conference paper description
We argue that a conceptual tension exists between “diversity” and “heterogeneity” and that glossing over their differences has practical, moral, and epistemic costs. We examine how these terms are used in ecology and the social sciences; articulate a deeper linguistic intuition; and test it with the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The results reveal that ‘diversity’ and ‘heterogeneity’ have conflicting rather than interchangeable meanings: heterogeneity implies a collective entity that interactively integrates different entities, whereas diversity implies divergence, not integration. Consequently, striving for diversity alone may increase social injustice and reduce epistemic outcomes of academic institutions and governance structures.