- A nonprofit group representing over 500 current and emeritus faculty is calling for colleges to eliminate submission of diversity statements as conditions of employment.
- In a statement Monday, the Academic Freedom Alliance called such statements "forced pledges of conformity" and "obvious threats to academic freedom."
- At minimum, institutions should pause requests for diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, statements until they evaluate their effects, consider alternatives and safeguard against potential misuse, according to the group.
Colleges face a personnel challenge because faculty populations are generally much less diverse than student bodies. The share of faculty members who are not White has also grown more slowly in recent years than that of students, even as student pools are expected to grow even more diverse in many parts of the country in coming years.
Advocates for underrepresented students argue that a lack of diversity among top college employees can lead to students feeling undervalued and less welcome on campus. They call for campuses to engage more in equity and inclusion efforts.
However, campus diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are also controversial and have increasingly come under fire from free speech organizations.
In June, faculty at the University of Washington rejected a proposal that would have required professors to submit a diversity statement during the tenure process. This month, Montgomery College, a public community college in Maryland, took down a faculty internship job posting after being criticized for specifically seeking minority candidates.
Supporters of incorporating DEI in the hiring process say it can help colleges diversify their faculty and create a positive workplace for employees and students of all backgrounds. Opponents, however, say prospective or current faculty will feel pressured to say whatever the college wants to hear, regardless of their actual beliefs.
"The demand for diversity statements enlists academics into a political movement, erasing the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity. It encourages cynicism and dishonesty," the Academic Freedom Alliance's statement said.
In June, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression also criticized colleges using DEI criteria in faculty hiring and evaluation, saying such requirements threatened the professional opportunities of faculty "who dissent from prevailing thought on DEI."
"Vague or ideologically motivated DEI statement policies can too easily function as litmus tests for adherence to prevailing ideological views on DEI, penalize faculty for holding dissenting opinions on matters of public concern, and 'cast a pall of orthodoxy' over the campus," the group said in a statement.
FIRE co-founder Alan Charles Kors, an emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is also a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance.