A while back (I’m too lazy to look this up), I reported on the University of California at Berkeley’s requirement for all job applicants to submit a DEI statement with their application. The statement was to cover three areas: the applicant’s knowledge of about DEI, track record in advancing DEI, and plans to advance DEI at UCB were they hired. I also recall that the statements were given numerical scores on these areas, and if the total number was below a certain cutoff, the application was ditched without being further considered.
I am opposed to mandatory DEI statements because I think they’re illegal: a form of compelled speech that, at least in state schools like Berkeley, violates the First Amendment. There are other reasons to oppose them, including the possibility that really good candidates might have spent their time doing other non-DEI but useful activities like writing books, giving lectures to the public, and so on. (Or, just doing good science, which doesn’t seem enough these days.) Further, candidates often have worked so hard during their postdocs and Ph.D.s (jobs are hard to get, and you need a good record), that even if you’re sympathetic to the aims of DEI, you have no time to compile a record. I think it’s sufficient for the university to post a statement that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, disability, or other protected characteristics. In other words, they should simply say that there is no discrimination in hiring (or in student applications)
Moreover, there is ample opportunity to game the system: you can copy statements of successful candidates, make stuff up, and even pay someone to write your diversity statement for you! This, perhaps, is why Berkeley didn’t want its scoring system revealed, but, under law, it had to do so. Now all candidates can use it to write high-scoring statements.
Finally, the use of these statements is designed to turn universities into ideological juggernauts, with professors conforming to the preferred narrative of the university (there are many ways to be in favor of diversity and inclusion). The job of a professor is to teach, promote learning, and advance knowledge by doing research. If you want to save the world, that’s fine, but, as Stanley Fish said (it’s a book title), save the world on your own time.
Required statements are particularly invidious when, like the ones used at UC Berkeley (see below), they are given scores, and candidates are rejected right off the bat if their DEI scores are too low. Think of all the famous and accomplished professors that wouldn’t make the cut today! If you answer, “well, Einstein should have been doing diversity work,” then I don’t know what to say.
While we knew that Berkeley was requiring DEI statements for its science faculty, and that they scored them numerically as the first cutoff for applicants, we didn’t know what the scoring rubric was. Now we know, thanks to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which filed a request for Berkeley’s records (it’s a public school and must disclose these) and for its scoring rubric.
Berkeley sat on its hands for more than TWO YEARS before complying. And it’s no wonder, because the rubric and scoring system really is embarrassing. It’s also embarrassing because candidates are rejected if their statements aren’t up to snuff, no matter how great their scientific work has been. (These statements will probably also become illegal after the Supreme Court bans affirmative action.) Only a diehard DEI proponent would not cringe at seeing how the three areas are scored.
First, see FIRE’s new report by clicking on this screenshot:
Below: some stuff from FIRE. Note that the rubric that Berkeley sent is from 2018-2019, but I suspect they’re still using it, as are other UC campuses (though I don’t know whether they use cutoff DEI ratings).
The University of California, Berkeley used diversity statements to weed out candidates for faculty positions, according to public records the university finally released more than two years after FIRE requested them.
Many universities now require or invite current or prospective faculty to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion — often through written statements that factor into hiring, research, evaluation, promotion, or tenure decisions.
As FIRE explained in a public statement last year, these diversity statement requirements can too easily function as ideological litmus tests and cast a pall of orthodoxy over campuses.
Berkeley is no exception. The university expects all new faculty hires to “be committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging[.]” During the 2018-19 academic year, Berkeley’s life sciences departments launched an initiative to advance faculty diversity. As part of the initiative, applicants for full-time faculty positions were required to submit statements on their “contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion,” including information about their “understanding of these topics,” “record of activities to date,” and “specific plans and goals for advancing equity and inclusion.”
These statements informed the hiring committee’s first round of review: If applicants’ contributions to DEI did not meet a high standard, they were eliminated from consideration.
On Berkeley’s dilatory behavior:
FIRE wanted to know more. So in March 2021, we filed a public records request seeking information related to how, exactly, the university was using and evaluating these diversity statements.
And then we waited. And waited. And waited.
Two years later, Berkeley still hadn’t handed over the records.
California’s Public Records Act requires that public agencies make records “promptly available.” Berkeley finally produced the records in May 2023 after FIRE sent a demand letter threatening legal action. It took Berkeley 795 days to comply with its duty under the act. Hardly prompt.
I have no explanation for a delay of nearly 800 days save that Berkeley was doing everything it could to NOT turn over its records, and, given that it had to under the law, delayed and delayed and delayed.
And now the rubric, which was required for all five life science departments at the University. Click below to see how each of the three areas was scored.
Here’s FIRE’s summary:
According to the rubric the hiring committee used to evaluate the statements, candidates who “discount the importance of diversity,” or who don’t feel personally responsible for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, received lower scores. As would anyone who “[d]efines diversity only in terms of different areas of study or different nationalities, but doesn’t discuss gender or ethnicity/race.” The rubric even penalizes candidates who “state that it’s better not to have outreach or affinity groups aimed at underrepresented individuals because it keeps them separate from everyone else, or will make them feel less valued.”
But read for yourself. Each of the three areas—knowledge, track record, and plans to advance DEI—are scored on a scale from 1 to 5, so the minimum score is 3 and the maximum 15. No cutoff point is given here.
I’ll quote the rubric from only one of the three areas: the candidate’s track record:
TRACK RECORD FOR ADVANCING DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
These will get you the low scores of 1-2:
• Participated in no specific activities, or only one or two limited activities (limited in terms of time, investment, or role).
• Only mentions activities that are already the expectation of faculty as evidence of commitment and involvement (for example, “I always invite and welcome students from all backgrounds to participate in my research lab, and in fact have mentored several women.” Mentoring women scientists may be an important part of an established track record but it would be less significant if it were one of the only activities undertaken and it wasn’t clear that the candidate actively conducted outreach to encourage women to join the lab.
• Descriptions of activities are brief, vague, or describe being involved only peripherally. Or the only activities were oriented toward informing oneself (for example, attended a workshop at a conference)
This will get you a bit higher score: a 3
• May have participated extensively in a single activity. Less clear that there is an established track record.
• Limited participation at the periphery in numerous activities, or participation in only one area, such as their
research to the exclusion of teaching and service.
• In describing mentoring of underrepresented students, mentions specific strategies used for effective
mentoring, or awareness of the barriers underrepresented students face and how to incorporate the ideas into
• Membership in a student or professional organization that supports underrepresented individuals
And if you want the highest score, between 4 and 5, you have to have done these things.
• Describes multiple activities in depth, with detailed information about both their role in the activities and the
outcomes. Activities may span research, teaching and service, and could include applying their research skills or
expertise to investigating diversity, equity and inclusion.
• Consistent track record that spans multiple years (for example, applicants for assistant professor positions can
describe activites undertaken or partcipated in as an undergraduate, graduate student and postdoctoral scholar)
• Roles taken were significant and appropriate for career stage (e.g., a candidate who is already an assistant
professor may have developed and tested pedagogy for an inclusive classroom and learning environment, while a
current graduate student may have volunteered for an extended period of time for an organization or group that
seeks to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in science).
• Organized or spoken at workshops or other events (depending on career stage) aimed at increasing others’
understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion as one aspect of their track record.
• Served as a leader in a student or professional organization that supports underrepresented individuals.
In other words, to get a high score you must have a record in DEI activity showing that it was a major priority during your doctoral or postdoctoral work, and must have spent a lot of tim—over multiple years— engaged in such activities. Merely saying that you treated all students fairly and equally regardless of their ethnicity, gender, disability status, and so on will get your application rejected.
It’s no surprise that Berkeley wanted to sit on these requirements. If they were proud of them, or even not ashamed of them, why the long delay?