A thread about universty DEI statements

January 24, 2023 • 9:45 am

Since August of last year, John Sailer, who works for the National Association of Scholars (NAS), has been putting put together a long thread about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements (DEI) that are now required for many applicants for academic jobs. Indeed, in many cases they are weighed more heavily in the hiring process than are academic achievements and qualifications themselves. DEI statements can even completely override academic and scholarly merit! For academic jobs in the Life Sciences at UC Berkeley, for instance, your DEI statement is ranked on three criteria: your knowledge of DEI, your track record of DEI work, and your plans to implement DEI initiatives if hired). This is done using a point system (15 points total). If your statement doesn’t accrue enough points, your application is put in the dumpster and is not considered again. Too bad if you look like a future Nobel laureate; there is no job for you at UC Berkeley unless you have a long track record and well-considered philosophy of diversity. (We are of course talking about racial diversity, not viewpoint diversity or socioeconomic diversity.)

I’ve objected to these statements because they constitute “compelled speech”: a prospective faculty member has to adhere to certain specified ideological principles to be hired, principles having to do with social engineering rather than teaching, learning, and research. While I agree with many of the sentiments behind these initiatives, I do not favor making them compulsory, as it foists a political homogeneity on universities and stifles free discussion. How could it not? You simply can’t be hired unless you’re of the right political bent.

The NAS is an education-centered political advocacy group with a conservative bent. But I make no apologies for mentioning right-wing sources; what matters here are the assertions, which you can check for yourself. Every claim I know of below is accurate, but of course I didn’t check all of them.  Also this is Sailer’s own Twitter feed, so this isn’t an official presentation by the NAS—yet.  But one thing is for sure: you’re never going to see a “progressive” individual or organization collect examples of DEI-statement requirements. Progressive favor such statements, but flaunting them in public is not a good thing to do. Why? Figure it out for yourself.

Sailer begins his thread by noting that the governors of the University of North Carolina (UNC) have ended diversity statements, which would be a good thing to do. UNC at Chapel Hill was also the first university in the U.S. to follow the University of Chicago by mandating both the Chicago Principles of Free Expression and the Kalven Principles of institutional neutrality. That’s all pretty amazing for a school in the South!)

I can’t find anything on the web about the ending of DEI statements at UNC, so I’ll take Sailer’s word for it for the time being. I did find an NAS article he wrote in August of last year called “Mandatory DEI statements undermine academic freedom at UNC-Chapel Hill,” which lists all the jobs at UNC-CH that required diversity statements. But it doesn’t mention ending DEI statements, except as a desideratum.

At any rate, here’s Sailer long list of DEI-related requirements for schools, how they are assessed, and then at the end a bit about the burgeoning DEI bureaucracy. There are 18 further tweets that I didn’t have space to include, so look at the thread for yourself. Just regard this as data that you can check if you wish. If it’s all true, and I don’t think Sailer would make this stuff up, you should be very afraid for the future of universities, of free speech, and of academic freedom.

Cluster hires are hiring of a several faculty at once who are committed to advancing DEI initiatives. I wasn’t aware that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which uses taxpayer money, has grants for this purpose.

The first tweet is Berkeley’s infamous Life Sciences DEI initiative. If you said in your UCB DEI statement that you were committed to treating all students equally and with empathy and respect, regardless of ethnicity, your application was as good as dead. The second tweet below that, at Emory, biology puts as much weight on DEI initiatives as it does on research and teaching, presumably for both hiring and promotion.

The Oregon DEI statement is not just an add-on to a promotion package that can be ignored. Rather, it has “clear consequences and influences” on your chances of promotion. Professors: start reading your Kendi!

As noted below, the California Community Colleges system is indeed the largest such system in America, and their DEI evaluation criteria for all employees (does this include everyone employed by the system?) are very strict. Further, the school system has to develop a “pedagogy/curriculum that promotes a race-conscious and intersection lens [sic]” and an “anti-racist and inclusive environment.” This is the total racialization of the educational system, treating students as if they were members of different but individually homogeneous groups.  These initiatives comprise efforts at social engineering on a massive scale rather than as a vehicle to get students to learn, to learn to think, and to promote teaching. The “teaching and learning” here is political propaganda, and I know of no similar large-scale endeavor in American educational history.

Here’s the infamous Berkeley rubric which explicitly rejects Dr. King’s criterion for how to treat people. I’ve put it below, and it’s being copied by other schools explicitly (e.g. “see UC Berekeley’s rubric”).  Below are Cornell’s DEI criteria for hiring taken from the second tweet.  There is no stopping this juggernaut:

Finally—but remember there are 18 other tweets—we have the University of Michigan’s DEI bureaucracy: 56 employees and a salary budget alone of $10.6 million. That does not include the budget for activities. It is a huge investment in DEI, and, once in place, it will not go away.

Have a look at the other 18 tweets and see if you’re not chagrined at the change of course of universities.

In a few months, the Supreme Court will overturn affirmative action, and most likely also prohibit race-based searches for candidates along with race-based hiring. What will that do to these initiatives? It will likely constrict their activities, but—make no mistake—schools will have their DEI one way or another.  With such a bureaucracy, they will somehow have to keep banging the drum that DEI is necessary to overcome the seemingly-permanent “structural racism” of universities, and workarounds will be found. (I already know of a few.)  The social engineering will not stop, nor the deflecting of universities from their real purpose down the path of “progressive ideology”. From now on, all professors, to get hired, must profess fealty to a specified ideology, and that is compelled speech.

33 thoughts on “A thread about universty DEI statements

  1. Despite being a lifelong liberal, I became a fan of the National Association of Scholars when they investigated my dismissal from Berea College and published this letter to the college president: https://www.nas.org/blogs/article/an-open-letter-to-lyle-d-roelofs-president-of-berea-college There are advantages to collecting observable objective data such as the NAS is doing; discrimination that is more subjective and implicit is much harder to identify and refute but no less damaging.

  2. I hate it when people diss and ignore sources based on political affiliation; it’s similar to a Trump supporter dismissing a rare good science piece by the NYT for being a liberal paper.
    The wokerati lack of self awareness is both amusing and alarming.

    1. The political strategist of the (US) Democratic party Ruy Teixeira has called ignoring sources based on political affiliation the Fox News fallacy:

      The Fox News Fallacy. Aug 5, 2021
      It’s Blinding the Democrats to Real Problems
      https://theliberalpatriot.substack.com/p/the-fox-news-fallacy
      The Fox News Fallacy is … the idea that if Fox News (substitute here the conservative bête noire of your choice if you prefer) criticizes the Democrats for X then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often. The problem is that an issue is not necessarily completely invalid just because Fox News mentions it.

      1. Even worse is that they don’t seem to properly grasp the irony of doing this, then saying they’re so much better when in reality conservatives pull the same tricks.
        Mmmmm, this salty, delectable hypocrisy.
        Oi, delectable it is not! To truly have a well-informed view you actually need to *research* views and sources, diving into them and looking at other sources on the same topic to see the panoply. This at least allows you to gauge the beliefs and information floating around.
        Sadly, while this is essential to the health of democracy, too many can’t be arsed to bother, it seems…

  3. I work in academia, and I think this trend is disturbing. Obligatory disclaimer: *of course* diversity is good in the sense of “no qualified applicant should be turned away due to irrelevant characteristics such as their skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.” And of course people of all backgrounds should be treated with courtesy and respect. But these DEI statements go beyond that.

    My first problem with this is, where do these DEI administrators get off insisting that discrimination and lack of equity are the biggest problems in today’s world? What if I were to write, “I really don’t pay much attention to DEI, but I spend my spare time fighting climate change, which I believe is a much bigger problem.” It would be considered unacceptable, but why?

    Secondly, I object to compelled speech on principle, even on issues I would otherwise agree with. My parents grew up on the far side of the Iron Curtain, and I have a visceral NOPE reaction to things like this.

    What can be done? If a single person speaks out, they get tarred as an irredeemable racist/sexist/transphobe and are cast into the outer darkness.

  4. MLK’s famous dictum about the treatment of others based on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin, has been overturned by many who regard as critically important racialized awareness and as problematic indeed “colorblind racism” (the title of a book published several years ago).

  5. The DEI bureaucracy constitutes a considerable force in these universities. But how exactly did that happen? How did these bureaucracies get themselves established? Presumably the institutional capture depends on people already with significant power within the university, who want to turn it into an engine for social justice. I would like to see more about how this takeover works.

    1. Me too! Jonathan Haidt thinks its largely to do with generational succession, and there must be other factors too.

      1. I recommend:
        John Ellis: The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done. Encounter Books, 2020, 224 p.
        https://www.amazon.com/Breakdown-Higher-Education-Happened-Damage/dp/1641770880

        Ellis was also a panelist at the Academic Freedom Conference which took place in Nov 2022 at Stanford University. He is distinguished professor emeritus of German literature, University of California, Santa Cruz.

        Cass Sunstein: Going to Extremes—How Like Minds Unite and Divide. Oxford University Press, 2009
        https://global.oup.com/academic/product/going-to-extremes-9780195378016
        Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie: Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter. Harvard Business Review Press, 2014
        https://www.amazon.com/dp/1422122999/

        Brian Leiter: Blogpost: The economic background of faculty [Whence the obsession with gender and race?]. Dec. 2022
        https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2022/12/the-economic-background-of-faculty.html

  6. To appreciate the overtly political nature of this project it helps to be working at a university right now. They are liberal, welcoming, diverse places to work & study. Bigotry and discrimination within universities is such a small problem that a single associate dean could drown it in a bathtub. Instead the point of the DEI infrastructure and DEI-based faculty hiring is to promote progressive politics outside the university. This is dangerous to the university itself because it risks an overtly political response (cf. New College of Florida).

    1. “Bigotry and discrimination within universities is such a small problem that a single associate dean could drown it in a bathtub”

      That’s not the official line. The official line is that science is a hotbed of racism/sexism/ableism/cisheteronormativity that must be fought, and if you don’t recognize it, you are part of the problem. I didn’t make it up – it’s the subject of multiple editorial pieces in recent issues of Nature and Science.

      1. Ya for sure I am part of the problem. I quit some scientific societies over these positions. I can’t afford to quit my university job 🙁

  7. Surely someone can come up with boiler-plate language to get you a perfect score for parts one [understanding DEI] and three [future DEI actions]? Add some hints on how to best pack your DEI resume and you’re done. Problem solved!

  8. One thing I do wonder is how much any of these statements by university departments should be believed.

    Take this statement that Emory’s biology department claimed to weight research, teaching, and DEI equally in a search. This seems to be obviously false. Leaving DEI aside, my feeling from experience is that most R1 department pay lip service to teaching in hiring but really only care about research (our host has more experience and maybe can agree or disagree). So why shouldn’t we assume that the stated commitment to DEI is similarly dishonest?

    1. If I recall correctly from two NSF Engineering Committee of Visitors Reviews some 20 years ago, Sean is right on target. There were two criteria for grant applications: 1. technical proposal; 2. Societal impact or something like that. In our standard review of jackets from the previous five years, I would summarize the results as a great technical proposal (highest ranking by the grant review panel) with a crappy or virtually non-existent criterion 2 would be funded; while an excellent criterion 2 proposal with even a very good (lower than excellent) technical proposal would not make the cut. Now I think that the NSF policy was just to get proposers thinking about societal impact of their work – not to equally or even near-equally weight criterion 2. Anyway FWIW – this is what I recall.

    1. Nobody here wants to deny anyone else access to education. To the extent that “anti-racism” in these DEI requirements means Kendian discrimination in the present to make up for discrimination in the past, it’s the wokesters who are invested in ensuring some (Asian) people have reduced access to elite education. That this effect will be reduced after your SC rules on affirmative action seems like a good thing if you really believe in “ensuring everyone has access to education”.

    2. Pretty much everyone concerned does want to lend everyone access to education. It is a common wish for example to keep a robust system of affirmative action in student admissions, and in hiring of faculty so that underrepresented and disadvantaged groups are given a aliquot of extra consideration. But a 10 million dollar budget for DEI administrators with no evidence that it has any effect? C’mon.

      1. Mark, if your Supreme Court rules that affirmative action is unconstitutional, how will you keep going a robust system of affirmative action in student admissions? Is it even a common wish of “pretty much everyone” to be doing it now, outside of the apparatchiks who dare not stick their necks out and stop it at their institution first, and kill their own comfortable jobs running the programs? Even black people aren’t keen on affirmative action.

        I think you are going to have to accept that affirmative action will end, along with aliquots of extra consideration, and both your student body and your professoriate are going to look a lot less black, the former immediately and the latter eventually. But the system looks after its own, so the latter change will be very slow.

        The challenge will be to sell this reality to those who want to see more black faces in college lecture theatres no matter what.

    3. Yeah, language that poor minorities will never have heard, and required social justice work that poor minorities would never have the opportunity to do, will surely give them greater access to higher education as more schools and scholarship-granting organizations require such things of their applicants. And the same can be said of potential professors: say, the single black mother who may have a graduate degree, but who didn’t have time to “meaningfully engage in DEI practices and develop and institute robust systems based on DEI” (or some such nonsense criterion for hiring) because she was, you know, too busy working to put food on the table for her family. Doing this kind of DEI work before even becoming a professor is something only privileged people can afford.

      This BS is exclusive, not inclusive. You’re just one more part of the system keeping the social and economic elite ensconced firmly in their positions.

      So please, go on congratulating yourself for supporting policies that make it even more difficult for the poor to get an education, and for the non-“elites” to get hired!

      LAST EDIT: I can’t help but notice that the people who are actually part of these institutions and push this stuff are always privileged. I don’t care what their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or anything else is. They are people who have the privilege of being professors, white collar bureaucrats, and owners of “consulting firms.”; people who have significantly higher than average salaries to sit behind desks or lecture; people who have the free time and privileged positions to engage in “important work.” They’re never the poor, the socially or economically disadvantaged, or the less credentialed. And they always seem to manage to balloon their budgets, only to hire more people just like themselves: socially and economically privileged. And, as literally hundreds of studies have shown, socioeconomic status is the number one indicator of future life outcomes by a mile (no, not race, sex, gender, or anything else), from “happiness” to wages to living standards. The elite ensure they remain elite, and they even get to pat themselves on the back as they pretend to help the underprivileged.

      Seriously, try to look at your views and ask yourself why you hold them. Is it simply because you’ve been told that they’re what you’re supposed to believe if you support diversity and equality, or is it because they actually have been shown to do so? Truly put a critical lens up to them and ask if what you support is truly helping the people I assume you claim you want to help.

      1. “I can’t help but notice that the people who are actually part of these institutions and push this stuff are always privileged…owners of ‘consulting firms.'”

        Describes the new vice president of equity and inclusion at my university. Wealthy business consultant, PhD in educational leadership from a California diploma mill, personal connections to the president’s office, and fits the demographic requirements for such a job after the summer of 2020. Very nice person, believes she is doing god’s work. But pretty much the opposite of oppressed.

        1. When I was in grad school a few years ago, we had a DEI day of our orientation. It was basically a day of political indoctrination. The speaker and the Dean who introduced him were very proud to say that he and his other two co-founders of the consulting firm (through which the school engaged him) were alumni of the school! I thought that this was a remarkable admission, akin to saying, “yeah, I only work here and get paid $100,000 a month because my dad owns the company.” But, apparently, it was a point of pride for the school and the firm, rather than something to be kept hidden.

          So, it’s just a big ring of cash that keeps growing with every new budget, handed out to properly ideologically-oriented alumni who now “consult” for tens of thousands of dollars a session. They know that they can start or go to work at a DEI consulting firm when they leave school, so long as they have the social standing, requisite vocabulary, and long resume of “anti-racist work” — all things that only privileged people have the time and resources to accumulate. Heck, even being able to get a degree in something like any of the various non-science “studies” fields (oh no! I said “fields”) is something only privileged people do, as most people need to think about what degree will allow them to have a future job in a particular industry or trade. Although I guess it can be argued that all those useless “studies” degrees have been rendered useful now that DEI consulting is so dang lucrative and only getting more so.

          1. Ha yes the person I’m talking about is also an alum of my university. Undergrad b-school degree, then executive MBA from our b-school, then staffer and occasional visiting instructor, all while running her consulting outfit and getting MA and PhD “degrees” in “human & organizational systems” from an online “graduate school”. To be fair, being an alum means she has a long association with the university, which is good, but she moves in a social strata with folks like our chancellor (a former banker, now chair of our board of governors) who drives her $200,000 electric Taycan to campus a couple times a year for convocation. And this isn’t even one of Canada’s top universities. We’re just a mid-level suburban commuter school. But at least we have a wealthy vice president who’s fighting oppression and bigotry.

  9. The effect of the DEIshchina on the US academic scene is simple to predict, by reference to analogous past episodes. Progress in all fields of academic research will resemble that of Genetics in the USSR during the.second half of the 20th century, or that of astronomy in Catholic universities in the 17th century. Understanding of the natural world—-distinctly useful as the ecological crisis proceeds—will continue to be improved, but in locations other than the US.

  10. So what is to be done? I can only hope that agreements can at least be made that this top-down experiment in societal transformation be monitored for, say 10 years. After that time there should be assessment of how its going. If there is no significant change, then dismantle it.

    1. If you leave it in place for 10 years, you’ll never get rid of it. It will have developed its own anti-dismantling immunity. Like affirmative action. They don’t care whether it produces “significant change” (in what?) or not. The danger is that it will produce significant change. Just not change for the better.

      DEI is fundamentally a rent-seeking behaviour that has exploited the de facto requirement for a college degree for almost every good job. To get that academic qualification, tuition must pay for the DEI apparatus even if the DEI surcharge (hidden of course) on the tuition provides no economic value to the student who must pay it.

      The only way to defeat a rent-seeker is to break his hold on the market. Some universities will decide to abandon DEI when the market begins to signal that DEI is just a grift. It will reward DEI-negative schools with more students who will eventually donate more money. Students and professors who think that DEI is doing something for them personally will complain bitterly but they can either shut up or go somewhere else, which is what we want them to do. Even if the customer is always right in that he can take his business elsewhere, not all customers are worth having.

      The universities will have to grow a pair and discover that the sky doesn’t fall when they dismantle their DEI efforts. Once a few do it, the Queen of Hearts and her executioners all turn back into a pack of cards. But you have to want to. The only obstruction is if the university’s board of governors demands the DEI continue for their own personal ideological or race power reasons. That’s why you have to act fast, before those people take over, and they will, under an unchecked DEI culture. Waiting 10 years would be folly.

      DEI can be handled by someone in authority just saying No. Like a celebrity who is a celebrity only because she’s a celebrity, ignoring it makes it shrivel up and blow away….once you know you can.

  11. As a comment I would like to just repost a blogpost (emphasis added) by University of Chicago law school philosopher Brian Leiter:
    The “diversity” mafia is insatiable. Dec 2022
    Three “diverse” scholars explain in Nature that at the current rate at which universities hire “diverse” candidates, “racial parity” (with the population at large) will not be achieved, therefore universities need to hire 3.5 times as many “diverse” candidates. This would, of course, require a massive increase in discrimination against non-diverse candidates (beyond what already occurs, which as everyone knows is substantial), but that does not figure in the relevant conception of “equity.” No explanation is given for why “racial parity” is the desideratum,* and of course there is no discussion of the class dynamics that are central to any serious explanation for the existing racial disparity in higher education. “Racial parity” is already an illegal criterion in hiring, and “diversity” will be unlawful within the year. What will the insatiable proponents of “diversity” do then? This is going to get ugly, I fear.
    *One line of text asserts that, “Decades of work across policy and the social sciences have established the normative importance and empirical benefits of demographic parity in higher education.” The footnote has a couple of citations. Authors who make claims like this are clearly counting on the fact that most readers do not actually examine the literature, which establishes nothing of the kind, and which certainly does not make the case for “racial parity.”

    My own 2 cents:
    Over the medium term, US universities are on a collision course with taxpayers who provide most of their funding (and don’t share the ideology dominant in academia). This DEI stuff can only lead to a further leftist radicalization of academia. And we all have realized by now that what happens on elite school campuses, won’t stay on these campuses. Academia will succeed in brainwashing some its students, who will then stuff human resource departments, NGOs and the news media, and from these positions berate the taxpayers as hicks, yokels, bigots, racists, insufficiently up-to-date on this or that latest fad … (There are, of course, counterforces. A newspaper like the New York Times needs to meet the market test. So it’s no surprise that the Times has pulled back noticably from the wokeness it espoused over the years 2020-2022. Give it another 6 months and perhaps we will read in the Times that an appeals court has rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to reinterpret sex as gender identity in Title IX federal civil rights law and that poll’s show that the inclusion of biological males in women’s sport is not supported by the population.)

    Lee Jussim, professor of psychology at Rutgers University, gave a presentation at the Academic Freedom Conference, held at Stanford University on November 4 and 5, 2022. The first part of it was a quantitative assessment (5 mins) of how US academia, politically, is massively left of the American mainstream.

    Some of the following is likely to happen:
    Frederick M. Hess: Rolling back woke higher ed. Dec 1, 2022
    https://www.aei.org/op-eds/rolling-back-woke-higher-ed/

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