It takes the NYT a long time to catch up to current events in Woke World, perhaps because they wait to see how things shake out among liberals before deciding whether a story is worth covering, and how it should be covered. (Their coverage of the events at Evergreen State and Oberlin, for example, was unconscionably late.)
Now they’re covering DEI statements as requirements for college hiring, using as their opening example of Yoel Inbar, which the Chronicle of Higher Ed and I discussed at the end of June. As I wrote then:
I’m not sure why the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote such a long story about this issue, but probably because it instantiates an ongoing controversy in higher education. Actually four controversies, the last of which isn’t mentioned in the article:
1.) Should candidates be required to submit “DEI statements” when they apply for a job at a university?
2.) Should those statements be vetted against a given “correct” ideological position by the university or department?
3.) Should the candidate be denied a job if their DEI statements aren’t ideologically correct?
4.) Is it legal to require these statements (especially at a state university) since they may violate the Constitution by being loyalty oaths and subject to “viewpoint discrimination?”
In the case of psychologist Yoel Inbar, a professor at the Unversity of Toronto who applied for a joint hire with his partner at UCLA’S Department of Psychology, UCLA’s answer to the first three questions was, respectively, yes, yes, and yes. He didn’t get the job. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), however, thinks the answer to #4 is “no,” and is investigating the issue.
Inbar’s job offer was nixed (it was proposed a spousal hire; they had already given an offer to his wife) after 50 irate grad students objected to Inbar’s previouscriticism of diversity statements. FIRE began an investigation, but I’m not sure about the outcome, if any.
At any rate, the NYT, way late to the party, uses Inbar’s failure to be hired as the lede for its story on DEI statements, which you can read by clicking below:
First, the paper tells us what we already know:
Diversity statements are a new flashpoint on campus, just as the Supreme Court has driven a stake through race-conscious admissions. Nearly half the large universities in America require that job applicants write such statements, part of the rapid growth in D.E.I. programs. Many University of California departments now require that faculty members seeking promotions and tenure also write such statements.
Diversity statements tend to run about a page or so long and ask candidates to describe how they would contribute to campus diversity, often seeking examples of how the faculty member has fostered an inclusive or antiracist learning environment.
To supporters, such statements are both skill assessment and business strategy. Given the ban on race-conscious admissions, and the need to attract applicants from a shrinking pool of potential students, many colleges are looking to create a more welcoming environment.
What they don’t add, but should have, is that some University of California hires assess the DEI statements before looking at academic credentials, and if your statement doesn’t accrue the right number of diversity points, it’s tossed (the article does allude to the U of C rubrics, which require ideological conformity and are thus horrifying examples of compelled speech). Here’s what you MUST NOT SAY:
Many University of California campuses post their scoring methods online. These are widely used but not mandatory, and make clear which answers by an applicant are likely to find disfavor with faculty diversity committees.
An applicant who discusses diversity in vague terms, such as “diversity is important for science,” or saying that an applicant wants to “treat everyone the same” will get a low score.
Likewise, an applicant should not oppose affinity groups divided by race, ethnicity and gender, as that would demonstrate that the candidate “seems not to be aware of, or understand the personal challenges that underrepresented individuals face in academia.”
Note that “opposing affinity groups divided by race, ethnicity, and gender” is in fact opposing segregation! We’ve come full circle: segregation used to be what we fought against, now it’s what liberals want.
Some readers have taken issue with my claim that DEI statements were never used in the first cut, but it’s true (emphasis below is mine):
At Berkeley, a faculty committee rejected 75 percent of applicants in life sciences and environmental sciences and management purely on diversity statements, according to a new academic paper by Steven Brint, a professor of public policy at U.C. Riverside, and Komi Frey, a researcher for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which has opposed diversity statements.
Candidates who made the first cut were repeatedly asked about diversity in later rounds. “At every stage,” the study noted, “candidates were evaluated on their commitments to D.E.I.”
Things have since loosened up a bit, especially at Berkeley, but make no mistake about it: the DEI statement, as it was for Inbar at UCLA, can make or break your application.
Now the purpose of this screening (but not its execution) is well motivated: to give deprived minorities equal opportunity to be hired. But the problem is that “equity”— proportional representation—does not reflect equal opportunity if different groups have different interests or talents, or especially when different groups aren’t given equal opportunities from birth. And so the solution is to downgrade academic merit in favor of “Social Justice”:
A decade ago, California university officials faced a conundrum.
A majority of its students were nonwhite, and officials wanted to recruit more Black and Latino professors. But California’s voters had banned affirmative action in 1996. So in 2016, at least five campuses — Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Riverside and Santa Cruz — decided their hiring committees could perform an initial screening of candidates based only on diversity statements.
Candidates who did not “look outstanding” on diversity, the vice provost at U.C. Davis instructed search committees, could not advance, no matter the quality of their academic research. Credentials and experience would be examined in a later round.
I oppose mandatory DEI statements not because I oppose diversity (and that includes ethnic, gender, ideological, and socioeconomic diversity), but because their use constitutes compelled speech, a violation of the First Amendment as well as of the purpose of academia, which is to teach, create knowledge, and learn. There is no justification for making academics hew to certain political or ideological points of view to be hired; this is fact is counterproductive to the vigorous argument and discussion that is the heart of academia. And it takes no imagination to see that as “approved” political points of view change, so will the statements that academics are forced to swear to.
Of course the diversicrats, now occupying an increasing number of university positions and taking up more and more dollars in university budgets, can confect an excuse why DEI statements are necessary:
Professor Soucek, at Davis law school, said ideological diversity is not the point.
“It’s our job to make sure people of all identities flourish here,” he said. “It’s not our job to make sure that all viewpoints flourish.”
He’s partly right and partly wrong. First, conforming to DEI rhetoric does indeed quash ideological diversity, which is critical for colleges. But to equate conformity to DEI statements with the flourishing of “people of all identities” (a good) is an assertion without supporting data. If a candidate has a history of bigotry or complaints about mistreating people of different genders, ethnicities, or views, then yes, of course, that speaks to their effectiveness as teachers and mentors. But absent such a history, must we still pledge fealty to certain approved ideologies? There is, after all, tenure, of which teaching plays a role.
To argue that diversity statements politicize academia and impose a point of view is also a mistake, according to the faculty diversity work group at Santa Cruz. “Social justice activism in academia seeks to identify how systemic racism and implicit bias influence the topics we pursue, the research methods we use, the outlets in which we publish and the outcomes we observe.”
First of all, “implicit bias” is an unsubstantiated myth, though it continues to be propagated as if it were real and we’re all imbued with it. More important, while academia must not discriminate against people’s immutable traits or origins, its purpose is not to promulgate “social justice activism.” As Stanley Fish wrote in an eponymous book directed to academics, save the world on your own time.
While I’m a liberal and adhere to liberal principles, I also don’t think people should be forced to adhere to my principles. They can be persuaded to join me, but I’m not dumb enough to think that everyone will. The notion that authoritiarianism of the “progressive” left, as manifested in DEI statements, will effect a permanent cure of racism in academia (not nearly as pervasive as diversicrats assert) is an abiding falsehood of our age.