Reforming Higher Education

Ilya Shapiro:

Many Americans despair of reforming the culture of higher education. But a substantial majority of college students attend public institutions, and these schools are subject to state law. If legislators are determined to restore free speech and academic freedom, there’s a lot they can do. In cooperation with the Goldwater Institute, we’ve developed model state legislation based on four reform proposals:

• Abolish “diversity, equity and inclusion” bureaucracies. These offices work actively against norms of academic freedom and truth-seeking, advance primarily political aims, and fuel administrative bloat that raises costs and exacerbates student debt. Administrators at public institutions should maintain official neutrality on controversial political questions extraneous to the business of educating students. Leave compliance with federal and state civil-rights laws to the university counsel’s office.

• Forbid mandatory diversity training for students, faculty and staff. Even when DEI officials claim their training is “voluntary,” it’s often required for faculty who wish to perform basic extracurricular roles, such as serving on hiring committees. Typical diversity training includes unscientific claims about “microaggressions” and “implicit bias” and rejects the basic American principle that everyone should be treated equally. It indoctrinates an ideology of identity-based grievance, guilt and division.

• Curtail the use of “diversity statements” as a means of political coercion. These serve as litmus tests in employment processes to exclude applicants who don’t adhere to critical race theory and other radical beliefs. Although the Supreme Court has long held that requiring loyalty oaths in public education is unconstitutional—as are other forms of compelled speech—universities increasingly require that applicants state their belief in the importance of DEI, cite prior personal efforts to promote DEI and pledge to integrate DEI into their teaching. Applicants for many positions have been eliminated on the basis of diversity statements alone and many universities condition their hiring decisions on the applicant’s ideological conformity.

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