Life science jobs at Berkeley give precedence to candidates’ diversity and inclusion statements

December 31, 2019 • 11:30 am

UPDATE: My Chicago colleague, law and philosophy professor Brian Leiter, has given this post a shout-out on his Leiter Reports site. More important, he adds that there are lawyers (some of whom he knows) looking to prosecute a case against the University of California on behalf of rejected candidates, with the grounds being illegal practice of “viewpoint discrimination.” I’d be interested in following such cases. If you know anybody eliminated from the searches, by all means call Leiter’s post to their attention. (There’s also a comment from a lawyer offering pro bono help in the comments below.)


We’ve recently been discussing the use of mandatory “diversity statements” for academic job candidates, and the University of California’s commitment to not just using them in all searches, but giving these statements precedence in the hiring process, so that if your statement doesn’t exceed a minimum numerical cutoff for promoting diversity, increasing it in your past, and promulgating it in the future should you be hired, your candidacy is terminated (see here and here). This practice of making candidates not only swear fealty to diversity, but also show a history of concerted efforts to increase it, has been controversial, deemed as a form of ideological/political conformity that doesn’t belong in a hiring process.

A document from the University of California tells us how the system worked in six searches in the life sciences, and I find it a bit disturbing—disturbing because the ideology and social engineering is clear, because candidates, however good in scholarship, were eliminated if their diversity statements fell below a specified cutoff, and disturbing because the only kind of diversity involved was racial and gender diversity. But we know that that is what people mean when they talk about “diversity”.  Ideological, class, and background diversity are irrelevant.

Click on the screenshot below to go to the report, which is 5½ pages long.

In this process, diversity statements were used at the outset of searches to eliminate candidates.  There were two searches.

A.) Search 1 (“Cluster search”).  Here five faculty lines were opened in the Life Sciences with no stipulation as to preferred sub-areas. Instead of departments vetting the candidates at the beginning, a committee was formed of 22 members from all departments in the Life Sciences. 993 applications were received, of which 893 were considered viable.

These 893 applications were then vetted for diversity statements alone, rating the statements in three areas: knowledge about diversity, track record in advancing diversity, and plans for advancing diversity if hired. The published Berkeley diversity-evaluation rubric was used, rating candidates on a 1-5 scale for each of the three areas, so that the minimum score was 3 and the maximum 15.

Statements were evaluated blind to the candidate’s names, getting rid of some clues to sex and race. But these data would have been clear, I suspect, from the diversity statements alone (at least for minorities), so I highly doubt that candidates were evaluated “blind” in this respect. No cutoff in scores was given in the description of this search, though there was a described cutoff in the second search (see below).

Only 214 of the 893 candidates (24%) passed muster here as having adequate diversity statements. These 214 were then passed on to the appropriate departmental search committees to create a short list for interviewing candidates (these are typically 3-6 candidates per job). In this search and the second one below, candidates were also asked to explain their ideas about diversity during the interviews. The diversity interviews also served to weed out candidates:

Finalists were asked to describe their efforts to promote equity and inclusion, as well as ideas for advancing equity and inclusion at Berkeley, as part of their job talk. They also met with the department equity advisor, and/or with a student panel during their on-campus interview.

Only candidates who demonstrated, through their knowledge, past contributions, and/or future plans for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, potential to meet Berkeley standards were advanced as finalists and ultimately proposed candidates.

So even at the two last stages of the process, candidates were eliminated because of a perceived insufficient commitment to diversity.

Here is how the profile of candidates changed at each step in the attrition:

As you see, diversity of the pool is assessed using only race and gender. And, as expected, in each step the proportion of minorities increased (I count women as “minority candidates” here)—except for Asians, whose proportion fell somewhat. And the three Native American candidates failed to make the shortlist. White males, who are supposed to be eliminated by this kind of search, were also significantly whittled away. In contrast, Hispanics and African Americans were considerably enriched, with the proportions on the final shortlist (interviewees) enriched by 4.5-fold and 3.25-fold respectively.

The document doesn’t indicate who got hired, so we don’t know what category they fell into.

B. Search 2 (“Department search”).  Eight searches were conducted by departments alone, though data are available for only one (“ESPM”, or Environmental Science, Policy and Management). The ESPM process began with 360 candidates who were whittled down to 80 based on diversity statements alone (these were evaluated by two committees). Here they give the cutoff they used to proceed further:

The department analyst redacted the applicant diversity statements and randomly assigned two committee members to review each redacted diversity statement. Possible scores based on the rubric ranged from 3-15. Applicants who had scores that diverged widely were assigned a third reader. A minimum average score of 11 or a combined total score of 22 (across two committee reviewers) was required to continue to the next round of review. The committee met to discuss the results of this first stage of review, which yielded a total of 80 viable candidates. These were marked in AP Recruit as under “serious consideration.”

In other words, you had to score an average of 3.7 on each of the 1-5 rankings for philosophy, past efforts, and plans, to advance further. Here are the results of that process:

Here all minorities were enriched between the applicant pool and the shortlist, including women, African Americans (1 candidate), Hispanics (1 candidate), and Native Americans (1 candidate). Asians, however, were also enriched, more than doubling their proportion between the applicant pool (18.1% ) and final candidates (2 out of 5). Whites were reduced from about 60% of the candidates to none of the interviewees.

It’s clear from the document that diversity was regarded at least as important as scholarship in these hires, though having a cutoff for diversity from the outset indicates that it was actually the most important criterion for a search to proceed further. No matter how good your scholarship, if you didn’t pass the diversity cutoff (a score of 11 in the second search), you were toast. Here are some statements from the document:

In its first year, the Initiative to Advance Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Life Sciences made a strong impact on our campus and was a successful catalyst for positive change. It has been a high profile “proof of concept” that changing faculty search practices can result in successful recruitment of candidates that are both excellent researchers and committed advocates for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) through their research, teaching, and/or service.

. . .The Initiative established a group of allies across campus who are valuable resources for support and encouragement, and above all are committed to changing the status quo. With support from the campus leadership, the Life Sciences are now at a cultural and procedural tipping point in advancing faculty diversity, equity and inclusion.

. . . Ultimately, the “cluster search” was one of the most successful interventions of the initiative. It will result in an increase in faculty committed to advancing faculty diversity, equity and inclusion on the campus

I find this process chilling in its commitment to a specific form of social engineering. While I favor affirmative action (many readers here don’t), I think it should be enacted not through eliminating candidates because of insufficient diversity statements, but through departmental initiatives to identify and hire good minority candidates.  You might respond that, well, this is one kind of such initiative. But these hires involve initiatives meant to assure that every person hired is committed to diversity in precise accord with the ranking system. In other words, it enforces not just diversity, which I favor, but ideology, which I don’t. Further, only race and gender were involved here as aspects of “diversity”—not things like class, political viewpoint, background independent of race and sex, and so on.

Nobody should ever be automatically eliminated because their “diversity score” is below 11. If you do that, you will eliminate all those who are good scholars but don’t have a track record in promoting racial and gender diversity, even though they may have been involved in other valued social activities that don’t affect diversity (I’ve mentioned writing about your field for the public and giving talks to high school students to educate and interest them in your field).

But make no mistake about it: the Berkeley Diversity Mavens have won. By hiring large numbers of deans and administrators whose job is to promote initiatives like the above, colleges like Berkeley have guaranteed that this kind of process will only get more onerous and more invidious. After all, those people have to keep ratcheting up the process to keep their jobs going.  In reality, their goal should be to ultimately make their own jobs obsolete.


65 thoughts on “Life science jobs at Berkeley give precedence to candidates’ diversity and inclusion statements

  1. It seems if you are a white male you need not apply in this process. Odd since being an old white man seems to work for president.

  2. I am not familiar with this search, but it sounds similar to an multi-department search for mentor & diversity faculty at UCLA. Obviously, in these searches commitment to mentoring and diversity was a key element of the first triage! It is how the positions were defined! We have hired I believe like 5 or 6 faculty through this process – and all are exceptional scientists. This is also just a drop in the bucket across ALL faculty hirings. When we search specifically for new faculty for just our department, we do ask for a diversity/outreach statement. But in no case has anybody been eliminated just because a “commitment to diversity” did not score high enough (or even score at all). The key thing is if these are the occasional ‘special’ searches to diversify faculty (much needed!) or mandatory requirements for every search. The former is good policy, the latter is not.

    1. And this is why I no longer donate to UCLA. It’s one thing to prevent discrimination, and quite another to discriminate. UCLA discriminates in its admissions process and in its faculty hiring process. You have indicated that 5 or 6 faculty were hired by discriminatory processes which measured something other than ability to teach or academic excellence, and hence you now get to stew in the pot you have created, just as those professors at Evergreen State College in Washington now do.

      1. 5-6 faculty were hired with the expectation that they would work (as part of their job) to create outreach programs, to serve within UCLA programs that mentor students and keep individuals from dropping out of STEM. In short, not to just be diversity, but to make sure the next generation of applicants is more diverse in quality scientists. Of course if this is part of the job description, then it is ridiculous to not have it as part of the screening process. All the hires are top notch scientists and would be competitive even if the only criterion was research excellence. Clearly then it is possible to hire simultaneously for research excellence and diversity. Every job ad at every university is exclusionary in some or multiple ways, be it in terms of research specialty, teaching experience, administrative skill and program-building ability, professorial rank, or commitment to mentorship.

        1. You’re discriminating on the basis of race and sex and you should be ashamed but you are proud. This is so sad.

          1. Yes, I am extremely proud. UCLA is an institution that continues to be composed of a selection of the top students and scientists in the world. The proportions of these groups that are not white males is simultaneously rising. Your problem with this is????

  3. This process seems to only pick those who may know the right buzz words to use in their diversity statements. In all likelihood this will not increase diversity which would be the responsibility of the admissions process, no? Which are they trying to diversify; the student body or the faculty. Faculty cannot help diversify the student body, that’s up to admissions. More diversity in the faculty may help in increasing the diversity of student applicants but a faculty member? I don’t get it.

    1. Leaving aside the very strong reverse discrimination that is being done, I can see how this would infuse benefits into underrepresented minority populations. These faculty lines put more minorities into upper middle class neighborhoods. Their kids go to better schools. And minority students will see these faculty members as role models.

  4. “After all, those people have to keep ratcheting up the process to keep their jobs going.”
    Someone said that it is very hard to get agreement with your presentation when their jobs require the opposite intellectual position.
    Also, it is somewhat ironic that those who promote “diversity, have to enforce “conformity” to attain their “ideal state”.

    1. Also, it is somewhat ironic that those who promote “diversity, have to enforce “conformity” to attain their “ideal state”.

      I know, but it makes sense when you consider that, as you probably know, “diversity” doesn’t really mean diversity. It’s all about race and sex, and it’s narrowly defined to mean having some maximum proportion of whites and men. After all, if an organization is 85% – or even 100% – black (or female), you don’t hear people calling on them to get more whites (or men) to increase diversity… those organizations are celebrated for their diversity!

  5. And think of all the good professors who wouldn’t have been hired under such a system. Despite your civil rights advocacy, I’m not sure you’d have made the cut, Mr. Coyne – which would surely have been their loss.

    1. This is the central problem with the system being described. It is a case where “too much of a good thing makes it a bad thing”. Here, the good thing is affirmative action which results in an increase in hiring of underrepresented minorities above their % in a population. But in this highly excessive form we get a bad thing, which is that the small number of exceptional candidates will be overlooked because most candidates are tossed out even before their credentials are weighed.

  6. This, under “Future Plans” (plus typo).
    In 2019-20202, the College of Natural Resources and the Biological Sciences Division will both initiate new
    Associate Deans for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to provide additional leadership and help address some of
    the administrative challenges of the Initiative.

    Yeah, insert another level of bureaucracy, that always seems to work. ? Are they promoting diversity by increasing department complexity? I guess I’m confused.

  7. Revealing that each department now enjoys the services of an “equity advisor”. It would also be interesting to learn how the initial 22-member screening committee was formed. One must suspect activities of the new priesthood operating behind the scenes.

    Without much notice, priests of the Holy Trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have been spreading throughout administrative and pseudo-academic offices in Academia for
    years. Antiquarians may perhaps celebrate this surprising return of the University to its medieval roots. We might look forward to
    the Roman Curia’s “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” formally merging with the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). Such a merger would formalize that latter group’s function in higher education.

    By the way, I wonder whether other Science departments are doing anything to circumvent rule by the new priesthood? In a period much more recent than the medieval, it was some Chemistry and Physics departments in a large Eurasian country which offered to biologists refuge from rule by that country’s academic priesthood.

  8. In reality, their goal should be to ultimately make their jobs obsolete.

    In reality? In reality, a bureaucrat’s goal is to make their jobs more important and influential and prestigious (because $$$), and hire more bureaucrats.

    Nice that the next generation has to mortgage their future to pay for all these university administrators and their make-work projects.

      1. But this will not happen because livelihoods depend on perpetuating this sort of thing. This is my biggest complaint about affirmative action. It creates a vested interest and there will never come a time when it is no longer needed because an entire constituency depends on keeping it going.

      2. We know how this works. Even if a lack of “diversity” were solved by their efforts, “diversity” would then be re-defined in such a way as to require even more resources and staffing.

  9. The people promoting diversity will not be successful until ever block in the country has the same diversity in pro portion to the make ip or demographics of the country as a whole. That should be, snd may well be their goal.

    1. Hell, that’s easy. 40% of Americans believe in Creationism, so diversity says 40% of American biology teachers should be creationists.

      Who can be against viewpoint diversity? I mean, that’s even less controversial than handing out faculty appointments based on melanin counts over say, the quality of scholarship.

  10. Do you think google or apple,etc will ever higher this way? (Look at their current demographics.)

    I wonder if Berkeley is making itself irrelevant by hiring based on identity and not achievement.

    Even larger, throughout history there have been times when societies make fatal decisions about their future….I am thinking of the Islamic world circa 11th century AD.

    So, I wonder yet again, If universities throughout the US begin to hire based on identity and not achievement, Would another great emerging power (China!) seize the technological lead?

    1. I wonder if Berkeley is making itself irrelevant by hiring based on identity and not achievement.

      Yes it is. If your department doesn’t hire the best researchers and teachers available, the quality of its research and graduates will drop and it will lose its prestige.

      Conversely, if you are prepared to overlook the fact that a candidate does not have a strong diversity statement, you’ll find the pool of good candidates has increased in size.

      Furthermore, places like Evergreen and Oberlin show that an excessively woke culture is an existential threat.

  11. If anyone was rejected for a position in such a search or any other search requiring a mandatory diversity statement, please reach out to me. I am an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm that offers pro bono representation and am looking to challenge the UC Policy.

    Daniel Ortner
    Pacific Legal Foundation

  12. Well, I think all this should be on people’s CVs in their future jobs. If offered the choice between a doctor who had bent over backwards to meet Diversity, Equity and Inclusion targets, and one who had concentrated on her or his clinical studies, I know which one I would prefer.

  13. Among the many problems I see here is the gawd awful amount of extra time it must take! I have been on hiring committees, and I can tell you they are pressed for time to screen , interview, and negotiate a hire of the best candidate before they get snatched up by another university!

    Literally a day can make a difference between hiring a top-notch new faculty member that everyone wanted versus getting the 3rd or 4th choice, or getting no one since they all got jobs somewhere else in the meanwhile.

  14. I once wanted to be an academic.
    I got a degree, an honors degree in Philosophy and a minor in Computer Science.
    I loved it but for one reason or another, rather than go on I stayed working on the docks. I liked the manual work.
    I am so glad I did if even a fraction of what I hear about the politicization of University departments is true.

    1. I wonder if Berkeley physical plant workers have to run a similar gauntlet.

      I wonder if Berkeley would make an exception for a science nobellist like Steven Weinberg, Richard Feynman, et al.

  15. How many of the Hispanics are White American, or Black, or Scandinavian, or Ashkenazi, or British, or Korean? Do they take a DNA test, or they just know by looking at you?

  16. The figures in the table show that the policy is clearly both sexist and racist. How else can you explain the drop in males, whites and Asians following the initial phase?

  17. As Dr. Coyne says on a different topic (the-left-eats-itself-antifa-fractures-along-race-lines-over-punching-nazis), “this kind of xxx is inevitable”.

    When you (Jerry Coyne) start off with a stance like “diversity, which I favor”, where did you think this was going to end up? That inevitably leads to and ends at “Whites were reduced from about 60% of the candidates to none of the interviewees. No matter how good your scholarship, if you didn’t pass the diversity cut off, you were toast”.

    So I am surprised you are surprised that the slippery slope ultimately stops at the metaphorical bottom.  This was inevitable.

    The lesson for all you intelligent thoughtful people is to be careful with what you start off with.  By all means, argue & advocate for “quality of opportunity” not “equality of outcomes”.  Right from the beginning and very clearly.

    1. Did you read what I said? I said that of course if you favor diversity as a goal you’re going to sacrifice some other attributes (e.g., scholarship), so yes, whites will be reduced. What I objected to was the use of cutoffs, which eliminates someone who doesn’t exceed an arbitrary “diversity” threshold. And I said that other criteria besides gender, skin color, or academic scholarship can be used to increase diversity.

      So I am surprised that you didn’t read what I wrote. And that you hold yourself above the other “intelligent and thoughtful people.”

      And, umm, you’ve clearly listed my preference for equality of opportunity over equality of outcome, but we don’t have equality of opportunity now.

  18. Something else occurs to me about the U.C. decision to make religious tests (the Holy Trinity of D, E, I) supersede accomplishment in judging Bio faculty applicants. Several posters have pointed out that this will end up lowering the quality, as we perceive it, of the U.Cal. Biology departments.

    Maybe the D,E,I priesthood is aiming at this outcome quite deliberately, part of a campaign against “meritocracy” in general. There is a pervasive bias on the academic Left (e.g., anything coming from Bill Ayers) that the very existence of correct answers to Physics problems belongs in the same universe of things as, say, the existence of collateralized debt obligations—and hence
    “merit” in outcomes is entirely a social construct. Naturally, this view is pervasive in Schools of Ed, not in units which deal with the physical world.

  19. The paper-thin covering over a clear political slant of diversity statements is troubling, and it’s obvious that these statements are an attempt to get around bans on affirmative action, either ones actually existing or ones that AA advocates fear are coming given a confluence of factors: demographic change rendering the black/white binary of AA inoperable, much larger numbers of people going to college in a way that makes the seats very high stakes, increasing opposition to it in the federal judiciary, newer Asian immigrants becoming politically awakened. And some of the arguments for “diversity” are becoming increasingly incoherent and tendentious, and bizarre or even unsettling in their conclusions and corresponding implications, e.g. “black people need black doctors to get the best health outcomes”.

    However, I am reminded that when I was applying to college (strange to realize it’s now more than 10 years ago), my peers and I all had to write essays on how we had “overcome adversity”, which I guess had been the admissions trend for at least a decade at the time and would be for years thereafter. Kids agonized over these, and of course well-off kids hired people to consult them on what to write (which seemed incredible from my middle class POV), and people who had relatives who were members of academia had the best sense of all on what admissions committees were looking for in these essays. Also, everyone, even the people who were “good” at them, hated them. Looking back, these were quite obviously a way to overcome barriers on affirmative action: the kids at my commencement who read their admissions essays detailing harrowing adversity (refugees, parents and friends killed or imprisoned, deep poverty) were almost uniformly non-white and non-Asian, at an elite school that was probably 85% or more white and Asian. I had to do this process again when I applied for grad school.

    Obviously this is admissions and not hiring, but it seems like colleges are simply trading “adversity” for “diversity”, and likely because “adversity” had been sufficiently gamed for.

  20. The Rubrics can be found from every UC campus. Faculty seek resolution through only available routes of the Academic Senate. For a resolution: ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statements shall not be mandatory for the appointment or for the advancement of faculty.‘

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