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.