March 30, 2017

GEORGE LEEF: Loyalty Oaths Return with Faculty “Diversity Statements.”

One of the worst features of America in the 1940s and 50s was the persistent demand for national loyalty oaths. In those days, people were expected to declare their support for the U.S. and if they didn’t, they could be blackballed, expelled, or otherwise punished.

The ideological fervor for conformity abated for decades, but has recently returned on our college campuses in the form of mandatory “diversity statements” by faculty members and especially prospective faculty members. The difference is that instead of having to pledge adherence to America in its battle with communism, the new pledge is adherence to the “diversity” agenda in its battle against a color-blind, merit-driven academia.

This recent paper by the Oregon Association of Scholars illuminates the problem of mandatory diversity statements. While the paper focuses chiefly on schools in the Oregon higher education system, it observes that more than twenty major universities and systems across the nation now require diversity statements for hiring or promotion, including the University of California, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Virginia Tech.

Traditionally, faculty candidates have been evaluated on the basis of four documents: a cover letter, their curriculum vitae, research statement, and teaching statement. Now, a fifth document is being added—a statement in which the individual expresses his or her commitment to “diversity.” That is, how important it is to the individual, how he or she acts to further diversity, and so on.

This is not merely idle curiosity, of course. The diversity statement has a purpose. That purpose, writes the paper’s author, Professor Bruce Gilley of Portland State University, is to weed out non-leftist scholars.

At many universities, he explains, there is an unspoken ideology that “emphasizes group identity, an assumption of group victimization, and a claim for group based entitlements.” On the other hand, “Classical liberal approaches that emphasize the pluralism of a free society, the universalism of human experience, and the importance of equality before the law have been regarded as invalid.”

Scholars who don’t demonstrate enough zeal for the former or any sympathy for the latter are put under a great disadvantage. The ideological purists who often dominate in hiring and promotion decisions don’t want dissidents in their schools if they can be kept out.

What they want, of course, is to absolutely eliminate intellectual diversity. Fortunately, there’s a solution:

The Higher Education Act is currently before Congress for reauthorization and quite a few good amendments have already been suggested. (Here, for example, are several suggested by the National Association of Scholars.) We could end the use of “diversity statements” if Congress amended Title IV to say that no school that receives federal funds may require any current or prospective faculty member to declare his or her position on or actions regarding any political or social issue.

After that, perhaps the Department of Education could send out a “Dear Colleague” letter explaining what that means: no ideological screening for faculty members and a commitment to enforcing it.

Endorsed.

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