Brian Leiter on Diversity Statements as Political Tests

The Legal Problem With Diversity Statements

When Abigail Thompson, a mathematician at the University of California at Davis, wrote an opinion piece last fall in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society lamenting the use of mandatory diversity statements in job applications, comparing them to the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era, it unleashed a torrent of commentary, both condemning and supporting her. Thompson, after praising other efforts to diversify the mathematics profession, wrote:

In 1950 the Regents of the University of California required all UC faculty to sign a statement asserting that "I am not a member of, nor do I support any party or organization that believes in, advocates, or teaches the overthrow of the United States Government, by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional means, that I am not a member of the Communist Party." Eventually 31 faculty members were fired over their refusal to sign … Faculty at universities across the country are facing an echo of the loyalty oath, a mandatory "Diversity Statement" for job applicants. The professed purpose is to identify candidates who have the skills and experience to advance institutional diversity and equity goals. In reality it’s a political test, and it’s a political test with teeth.

The teeth derive from the fact that some universities and departments are using scores on the diversity statement to make the first cuts in faculty searches. That would not be objectionable if it were only a device for weeding out candidates unwilling to work with a diverse student body: The ability to do so obviously goes to the core of a faculty member’s professional duties. The problem is that the new diversity statements go well beyond that, requiring candidates to profess allegiance to a controversial set of moral and political views that have little or no relationship to a faculty member’s pedagogical and scholarly duties.

Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education