At least one out of five job candidates in academia are formally evaluated based on their commitment to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI). Faculty departments, sometimes at the behest of university administrators, are formalizing an ideological litmus test for hiring. State and federal legislators can, and should, stop them.
The words “Diversity,” “Equity,” and “Inclusion” are all immensely slippery, as we show in a recent report. Taken individually, each carries the connotation of a cardinal social virtue. Diversity appears to mean appreciating and respecting differences; equity appears to mean giving individuals what they need to succeed; and inclusion appears to mean making people feel welcome. The inherent probity of these virtues should mean that everyone respects them, but “DEI” is enforced through mechanisms typically used to curb disgraceful vices: mandatory trainings, legal threats, and socially-sanctioned stigmatization.
Academic positions increasingly require candidates to show their commitment to DEI when they apply for jobs or when they seek promotion. At Boise State University, for instance, most academic jobs required a diversity statement last year. A Clinical Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering had to submit a “one page statement on diversity, equity and inclusion.” Candidates for an Assistant Professor of Cell, Molecular or Developmental Biology had to show “evidence of a commitment to create a diverse and inclusive working environment” as a job qualification and provide “a description of how the candidate’s research program and teaching philosophy would address BSU’s diversity and inclusion goals.”