NYT finally covers DEI statements

September 13, 2023 • 9:30 am

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.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 7, 2023 • 6:45 am

I’s nearly 2 pm in Jerusalem, and I’ve spent half the day having a “strategic tour” of Jerusalem: sites important in the defense of Israel after Independence, and seeing the Palestinian parts of the city and near the city (i.e., “area A”, where it is unsafe safe for me to go and illegal for my Israeli friends to go.  And yet it’s only 5:45 a.m. in Chicago, so there’s plenty of time for me to post a truncated Hili dialogue. In a few hours I’ll have a post on our trip yeserday to Masada and the Dead Sea.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, is it Hili or the butterfly who is drunk?

A: What do you see there?
Hili: A drunken butterfly.
In Polish:
A: Co ty widzisz?
Hili: Pijanego motyla.
Oh, and read this short article from Nature (click on screenshot):

And a reconstruction:

(From Nature): Fujianvenator prodigiosus, a bird-like dinosaur discovered near Nanping in China, had unusually long legs and did not seem equipped for flight (artist’s impression).Credit: Mr. Chuang Zhao

It’s still a theropod dinosaur, and you can read the original article here (but be quick before it’s paywalled).

I have landed!

September 2, 2023 • 8:15 am

Yes, I made it to Jerusalem with very little trouble. It took about five minutes to get through Israeli customs at Ben Gurion airport outside of Tel Aviv, I got shekels from an ATM, and I managed to get a cheap shared bus that dropped me right at my modest hotel in Jerusalem for 66 shekels (a shekel is worth almost exactly 25¢ U.S. It was about an hour’s ride.

I’m staying in “center city” of Jerusalem, not too far from the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.  I will probably rest up for the remainder of the day since I was up at 3:30 on Friday and watched movies on the plane instead of sleeping last night.

My first impressions are without much value, but one thing is clear: the country is very quiet on shabbos, without public transportation, and most of the stores closed.  Orthodox Jews can be seen all over the place, and I’m told that there are more of them here than in Tel Aviv, as this is a far holier city.

Tomorrow, after a full night’s sleep, I’ll begin touring, with several people having offred to guide me around. And, of course, I’ll look for hummus.

Stay tuned.

I did not get groped!

September 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

Even at 6 a.m., O’Hare Airport is hellishly busy today; I had forgotten that it’s Labor Day weekend and people are off to celebrate the end of summer.  I’m glad I’m leaving now, as the Chicago weather is predicted to be in the nineties next week. Our Dorm Ducks, however, have surely found a nice home in a nearby pond or lake, and, as I try to drift off to sleep each night, I soothe myself by thinking what a treat it would be for a duckling reared entirely on a plaza, with only very limited bathing facilities, to suddenly find itself in a large body of water, able to dunk, dabble, dive, and do the zoomies.

But I digress. Having both TSA Precheck and Global Entry, I got through security in a matter of minutes (NO GROPING AT ALL), and now I’m relaxing and waiting for my flight with coffee, a bagel and cream cheese.  I have several hours in Newark to cool my heels, and then it’s off to Tel Aviv on a long flight.  Thanks to the seatguru site (h/t Simon), I looked up my flight in advance, found that the aircraft on which I was flying had seatback entertainment, and so I can watch movies en route. (That site is a mitzvah.)

On the way to Newark, though, there’s only “device” entertainment: you’re supposed to download an app on your phone, use “air” earphones (there’s no plug in earphones with my newer iPhone), and watch movies on your phone!  This is the way airlines are saving money these days, and it was my situation on American Airlines all the way to Ecuador and back.  My advice to airlines, which of course they won’t heed, is to stop the madness!  Seatback screens with earphones are the best way to go. Imagine watching movies for nine hours on the tiny screen of an iPhone.

So I also have a novel: Middlemarch, which I’ll read for the third time, as well as the Lonely Planet guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (I won’t be allowed to enter Palestine, and it’s not safe there for an American Jew).

Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Tel Aviv, and will hie myself to Jerusalem to crash and recover from jet lag.  For the first two weeks I’ll be seeing Anna Krylov and her partner Jay, who lived in Israel, for some sporadic tours and activities, but I also have other cool people lines up to meet, thanks to invitations on this website and the advice of my surrogate mother Malgorzata. I’ll do my best to document my travels here (with photos), but I won’t wail at the Western Wall.

My food goal is to find the best hummus in Israel, though I won’t have time to try every place. But I’m told by everyone that Israel’s hummus is qualitatively better than hummus in America, and I love hummus, even in America.

So it’s hasta la vista, baby, and, I hope, my next post will have a picture of hummus in it.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 30, 2023 • 8:15 am

Doug Hayes, of “Breakfast Crew” fame and also a photographer of dancers, favors us today with photos of a bird rarely seen in his parts (Richmond, VA). His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Word recently went out over the local birding web sites and Facebook groups that a limpkin (Aramus guarauna) had been sighted in Three Lakes Park and Nature Center, located about ten minutes outside of Richmond. Naturally, this mobilized the Bird Nerds. At any given time, there were ten or more of us photographing the bird. Limpkins are tropical wetlands birds whose territory covers South and Central America and extends northward into Florida. [See range map at bottom.]

The birds spend much of their time probing the water and mud for shellfish and other aquatic invertebrates. This specimen found and ate several large freshwater mussels as we watched. With food this plentiful, the bird will probably linger in the area until the weather turns cooler. Of concern is that limpkins have little fear of humans and on several occasions this one has walked very close to people and sometimes wandered around the parking lots. Hopefully, people will respect the animal and not harm it.

The limpkin wandering along the edge of a stream in search of food. Totally unafraid of people, it actually walked between two of the photographers photographing it:

Doing a bit of preening after a successful hunt for mussels:

Enjoying a good scratch:

Back on the hunt:


More preening:

Eureka! A large freshwater mussel!:

After finding the mussel, the limpkin carried it out of the shade and into the harsh morning sunlight, so the pictures are not so good here. It made quick work of opening the shell:

And even quicker work plucking the mussel from the shell:

Enjoying the feast!:

Here’s the limpkin’s ange map from the Cornell Site All About Birds. They are nonmigratory, so this is their year-round range. The map adds, “Not migratory but dispersing individuals are occasionally found far from range, especially during severe drought.”  Doug’s bird was very far from home!

Camera info:  Sony A7RV camera body, Sony FE 200-600 lens + 1.4X teleconverter, iFootage Cobra 2 monopod, Neewer gimbal tripod head. I did not have to use digital zoom as the bird stayed so close most of the time

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 28, 2023 • 8:32 am

Today’s photos come from ecologist Susan Harrison at UC Davis.  Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.

Southeastern Arizona (part 1)

Sooner or later, a U.S. birdwatcher must go to Southeastern Arizona.   That’s because dozens of Mexican and Central American bird species make it just across the international border into the tree-lined canyons of Arizona’s Chiricahua Mts., Huachuca Mts., and other small north-south oriented mountain ranges.  Many of these birds are as dazzlingly colorful as you’d expect from their mainly tropical and subtropical distributions.

In August 2023 I made my pilgrimage to see these species.  Today I’ll show the most localized species, and next time I’ll show some of the ones that also range east into south Texas, west to the California deserts, and/or north to the Great Basin deserts.

First, a habitat shot of a canyon in the Chiricahua Mts.:

Next, the region’s most fabled bird, the Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans):

Hummingbird diversity is perhaps the region’s greatest claim to fame besides Trogons. Over a dozen species can be regularly found here!  The technique for seeing them is to visit small eco-lodges and visitor centers where feeders have been set up.  Here are four species:

Rivoli’s Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens):

White-Eared Hummingbird (Basilinna leucotis):

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps):

Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer):

Other colorful denizens include these warblers –

Red-Faced Warbler (Cardellina rubifrons):

Rufous-Capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons):

Some Southeastern Arizonan birds are close southern relatives of birds that are familiar elsewhere in the U.S.  Here are four examples:

Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi), almost identical to California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) but more social in its behavior; we always saw them in flocks:

Mexican Duck (Anas diazi) in front of a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos); these two species often hybridize in urban settings like this Tucson pond:

Whiskered Screech-Owls (Megascops trichopsis), related to Western Screech-Owls (Megascops kennicottii) and living beside them in this area, but in slightly drier habitats:

Mexican Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis lucida), found in pine and fir forests at higher elevations, closely related to and just as threatened as the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).   This roosting pair is grooming each other’s facial feathers.  My title for this photo is “Get a room, owls!”:

Caturday felid trifecta: Man bitten by stray cat contacts infection new to science; funny cat memes; the inner life of a cat; and lagniappe

August 26, 2023 • 10:00 am

Here’s a story from Science Alert that might make you think twice about petting that stray cat you encounter on the street.  This cat carried some nasty bacteria in its mouth.

A summary:

In the United Kingdom, a 48-year-old who was bit by a stray feline ended up contracting a species of bacterium that scientists have never seen before.

His immune response to the foreign microorganism was a doozy. Just eight hours after receiving multiple bites, the man’s hands had swollen to such a great extent that he took himself to the emergency department.

His puncture wounds were cleaned and dressed and he was given a tetanus shot before being sent on his way with antibiotics.

A day later, he was back at the hospital. His pinky and middle fingers on his left hand were painfully enlarged and both his forearms were red and swollen.

Doctors had to surgically remove the damaged tissue around his wounds. He was also given three different antibiotics intravenously and was sent home with oral antibiotics.

This time, thankfully, the treatment worked and he made a full recovery.

The result of the bite (see the paper here):

(from the site and the journal): The UK man’s infected hand and forearm. A) shows his left little finger, B) his right forearm, C) his right middle finger, and D) his right hand. (Jones et al., Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2023)


Back at the hospital, however, doctors were busy trying to figure out what had happened. When they analyzed the microorganisms present in samples from his wounds, they found an unrecognizable Streptococcus-like organism.

Streptococcus is a genus of gram-positive bacteria that is linked to meningitis, strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, and pink eye, among many other ailments.

But when researchers sequenced part of this bacterium’s genome, it did not match any strains on record. This was a new germ that scientists had never formally documented.

As it turns out, the bacterium belongs to another genus of gram-positive bacteria called Globicatella.

Full genome sequencing of the bacterium suggests that it differs from other related strains, like G. sulfidfaciens, by around 20 percent, indicating a “distinct and previously undescribed species”.

Because G. sulfidifaciens is resistant to several common types of antibiotics, it can prove difficult to eradicate from the body. Thankfully, the new strain discovered in the UK responded well to at least some antibiotics, but the story holds a warning for the public.

“This report highlights the role of cats as reservoirs of as yet undiscovered bacterial species that have human pathogenic potential,” the authors of the case study write.

The lesson:  be wary about petting cats you don’t know.


From Bored Panda we have 50 funny cat photos from an Instagram account. Click to see them all; I’ll show a few.

The source:

The Instagram account @happycat318 does a really good job of capturing [cats’] mischievous ways.

It shares memes about our feline friends being hellbent on world domination, and judging from the content, it’s only a matter of time before they get all the catnip they crave.

And eight examples:

I suspect this cat is Gli, the famous resident cat in Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia. I, too, met Gli, and fed him (see below):

Here’s me feeding Gli in the Hagia Sofia in 2008 (in Turkey I always carry a box of dry cat food in my daypack):


This NYT article reviews a cat book, The Truth About Max, by Alice and Martin Provensen, a previously unpublished book that came out just a few days ago. If the article is paywalled, I found it archived here. I’ve put some illustrations from the NYT in the text; these drawings are courtesy of Alice and Martin Provensen.

An excerpt:

Alice and Martin Provensen were the American picture book’s Ginger and Fred: a supremely poised and stylish illustrator team who, in a collaboration that spanned nearly 40 years and more than 40 children’s books (19 of which they also wrote and edited), beguiled fans with their deadpan wit, far-flung curiosity and midcentury-modernist flair.

“The Truth About Max,” with a big, brassy cat as its protagonist, is a previously unpublished picture book that was discovered in the form of a dummy, or preliminary version, in 2019 among some papers held onto by Alice’s agent George Nicholson, who died in 2015. Martin Provensen had died in 1987; Alice died in 2018.

Over the years, the couple had come to appreciate as individuals many of the animals living in their midst and, in a series of droll, sketchbook-style volumes, had proved themselves to be canny naturalist-observers. In “Our Animal Friends” (1974), the first of these books, they gave the real Max pride of place by depicting him on the title page with burning bright eyes and an ear-to-ear grin. The book they left behind was clearly meant to be the star turn they felt their farm’s arch-rascal had earned.

The Provensens’ love for animals, like Beatrix Potter’s, was pointedly unsentimental. In “The Truth About Max,” the truth they record includes Max’s bad-cat high jinks and his raw knack for survival: his unfailing instinct for knowing who on two legs or four can be trifled with and who is not to be crossed.

The Max we meet is also quite the hunter, with sleeping quarters that resemble a trophy room “full of squirrel tails.” This casual, and shocking, revelation is enough to make young readers feel they are being treated like grown-ups — another Provensen hallmark.

The illustrations vary in their degree of finish, with the occasional figure or face merely roughed in and the backdrop left sketchy for later. A publisher’s note states that the spidery, faux-naïve cursive used for the text is a redo by skilled calligraphers of the artists’ own place-holder hand-lettering.

. . . The unpolished bits tell a truth of their own, exposing traces of the awkward, trial-and-error not-knowing in which creative work so often has its beginnings.

Max was one more kindred spirit. His story ends on another decidedly grown-up note, this one hauntingly beautiful.

Every evening, we learn, Max, having “tired” of the barnyard, “walks down the lane,/ into the fields./ You would not know him./ He looks like a tiger.”

On his own, just what threshold has he crossed? Perhaps the mysterious one that marks the limit of what anyone can know about anyone else. “Now,” write the Provensens, leaving us to imagine the rest, Max’s “real life begins.”

The reviews on the Amazon site (link above) are very good, and this might be a good Christmas stocking stuffer for an ailurophilic child.


Lagniappe: A friendly cat interrupts a BBC reporter. Click on the screenshot to go to the site and see the video. Here are the BBC’s notes:

This is the moment a cat stole the limelight from a BBC reporter during a live broadcast from Manchester.

As Dave Guest was reporting for BBC Breakfast on people being encouraged to transform alleyways into “ginnel gardens”, the feline ran out of nowhere and jumped onto the bench he was sitting on.


h/t: Ginger K., Jez

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

August 15, 2023 • 3:21 am

by Matthew Cobb

In other news, in 1973, Doonesbury delivered this verdict on Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell. It would be two more years before Mitchell was convicted. Be patient, folks.

Meanwhile, in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a cat:

A: May I sit down here?
Hili: If you have to.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy mogę tu usiąść?
Hili: Jak musisz.

Feeding the ducks

August 7, 2023 • 11:00 am

The Dorm Ducks are thriving, and all ten are fat and sassy.  The weather has been good, too, with lots of rain, which they love.  They’ll be taken care of when I’m gone for ten days, thanks to the diligence of Team Duck.

Here’s a picture of me wheeling the cart full of water and food over to the dorm (“Meals on Wheels”), which we do three times a week.

I’ll put up a post of pictures from the other day, but I’ll add here that their secondary wing feathers have grown in, and their primaries are growing, too, and soon will be big enough to fly. Whether they will fly when they can is another matter: they have an easy life on the plaza, and I worry that they’ll scam us by making us think they can’t fly (so we’ll keep feeding them) when they actually can.  They don’t fly on our command, so that may be an issue.

Anyway: here’s Meals on Wheels (note my spiffy short haircut for the Galápagos trip).

The car has about 12 gallons of water, paper towels, duck pellets, mealworms, and miscellaneous duck-care items.