UPDATE: At his philosophy website, my Chicago colleague Brian Leiter is tallying all the UC campuses that use diversity statements as a threshold criterion. The tally is up to six schools now.
On the last day of 2019, I reported on a new way of hiring faculty at the University of California. It has already started on the Berkeley campus, and is poised to begin at both the Santa Cruz and Davis campuses.
The method, as implemented at Berkeley, is to require candidates for faculty jobs—not all of them yet, just those applying to some selected departments in the life sciences—to submit “diversity statements” with their applications. These statements require three features: they must express your philosophy of diversity, they must recount your past efforts to promote diversity, and they must describe your plans to increase diversity at the UC campus where you’re applying.
The invidious aspect of this process at Berkeley is that the diversity statements were vetted by a committee, not the department itself, and they were scored on a scale that goes from 1 (worst) to 5 (best) in each of the three areas. The minimum score, then, is 3, and the maximum 15. In one of the two searches conducted using this method, the minimum score required for a application to even make it to the next round, where the actual academic qualifications of a candidate were assessed, was an average 11 or more from each of two reviewers. In the other search, no cutoff was described, but the statements were used in the same way: to vet all applications, pruning those at the outset that had inadequate diversity statements.
A lame attempt was made in this search—as well as in the search at UC Santa Cruz about to start—to “redact” identifying information. That’s probably because it’s illegal for them to allow statements that specify race or names that might give a clue to race, although, as I wrote, whether a candidate is a member of a minority group will almost certainly be clear from the diversity statement itself:
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.
As always, the “diversity” they’re looking for is diversity of race or gender, though they never really define diversity, which I believe is a deliberate omission.
At any rate, this hiring process was also discussed by John Cochrane on his website The Grumpy Economist; his post was named “Wokeademia.” Both of our posts got picked up by the media, but of course mainly the right-wing media. At least some of them mentioned that I was in favor of affirmative action, which I am. So I’ll reiterate that yes, I favor initiatives to increase faculty diversity given the lack of equal opportunity for many minorities. I just don’t think it’s right to mandate “diversity statements”—and, especially, using them as a way to prune out all candidates who aren’t sufficiently on board with the UC ideology (or have no track record of promoting diversity). That simply eliminates candidates, even minority ones, who have outstanding records but haven’t spent a lot of time promoting diversity. Or who have done other sorts of “outreach” activities not involved with diversity itself.
And so, according to the report below, which comes from UC Santa Cruz itself, that school is instituting a pilot program which resembles Berkeley’s. (Click on screenshot)
Quotes from the report are indented, starting with this one:
Roughly a third of the faculty recruitments in the coming year will put contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront.
It turns out that “at the forefront” means “if your diversity statement isn’t good enough, we won’t look further at your application”. And the process, described below (and, sadly, conducted in the life sciences), resembles Berkeley’s—except that search committees themselves will vet the diversity statements. However, if your diversity statement isn’t good enough, your application still gets tossed. And there’s another feature: you’re asked (read “required”) to give a talk on how you’ll improve diversity. Note that even now diversity statements are “encouraged” (read: “required”) for every candidate at UCSC.
Emphases are mine:
The campus expects to run about 30 faculty recruitments in the coming year. In the recruitments that are part of the pilot program, search committees will first review and assess candidates’ statements on contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion before determining whether to evaluate the rest of the application materials. The statements will also be redacted to reduce potential impact of implicit bias.
Candidates who do advance will be evaluated on the whole of their application. The UC Santa Cruz program is based on similar successful efforts at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. Searches that are not part of the pilot program will continue to be run under existing campus practices, which includes asking candidates to submit a statement about their contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
. . .The campus is also encouraging search committees to ask candidates to give a talk on contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how they would work to further it at UC Santa Cruz if they were hired.
As part of the grant, the campus will host a workshop in winter quarter on faculty research into best practices for inclusive hiring.
A group of new faculty members will be recruited to launch a new global and community health program, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the divisions of Social Sciences and Physical and Biological Sciences. The faculty in the sciences will focus on parasitic and infectious diseases, the microbiome, structural biology, and stem cells, though all candidates who can contribute to global and community health are encouraged to apply. The faculty members in Social Sciences will focus on social justice and health metrics.
So there you have it. And although this is a pilot program, you know how these things work: the diversity initiatives—which are pushed by recently hired diversity deans and administrators who require ongoing programs to keep their jobs, and whose incentives are to create more programs—constitute a one-way ratchet. Once they’re underway, they don’t go backwards, and later the ratchet clicks forward again.
This is not to say that all diversity programs are useless or harmful: there should be programs in place to address the real needs and problems of minority students, and ways to promote the hiring of minority candidates. But diversity statements should not be part of such programs, nor part of the hiring process for reasons I’ve discussed before.
Here’s a comment from John Cochrane’s post, somewhat tongue in cheek, about the effect that UC diversity-statement requirements are having:
My friends (anonymous!) in the UC system report that the criteria are clear and the word is out: Don’t try to be clever. Don’t quote Martin Luther King, on judgement by content of character rather than color of skin. Don’t write vibrant essays on the importance of ideological, political or religious diversity. Don’t quote federal anti-discrimination law, the 14th Amendment, and the UC’s own statements of non-discrimination in hiring. Don’t write about class diversity, diverse experiences of immigrants, such as people born under communism in Eastern Europe or the amazingly diverse experience of the colleague you just hired who came from a small village in China. Don’t write about the importance of freedom of speech, or anti-communist loyalty oaths in the 1950s. Are you thinking of writing about your hillbilly elegy background, your time in the military, your support for gun rights and Trump, and how this background and viewpoint would enrich a faculty and staff that likely has absolutely zero people like you? Don’t bother. We all know what “diversity” means. And, heaven forbid, don’t express distaste for the project. The staff are on to all these tricks, and each of these specifically will earn you a downgrade. For an example of what not to do, see UCLA Professor Stephen Bainbridge’s (UCLA law) posted diversity statement. Let’s see if he gets that raise.
Have a look at Bainbridge’s diversity statement, which is a real in-your-face challenge of these programs. Ten to one he doesn’t get his raise.