In 2015 the University of California enacted a seemingly innocuous policy which said, “faculty achievement that promote equal opportunity and diversity should be given due recognition in the academic personnel process.” But this modest mandate for recognizing contributions to diversity has grown into a leviathan that imposes a loyalty oath to diversity dogmas oath, devours academic freedom, and justifies racial discrimination.
As UC schools have become increasingly obsessed with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), they have used diversity statement requirements in increasingly invasive ways. Diversity statements at some UC schools are the first thing a search committee reviews. These diversity statements must be evaluated by top-down rigid rubrics. And if a candidate does not achieve a sufficiently high score, then that candidate is automatically eliminated from consideration. Diversity statements for many applicants are not just an additional factor — they are the only factor. At UC Berkeley, for instance, 76 percent of applicants were eliminated without considering the rest of their application.
Diversity statements have also become ideological purity tests with one-size-fits-all rubrics that mandate ideological conformity. For instance, any candidate at UC Berkeley or UC Santa Cruz who believes “that it’s better not to have outreach or affinity groups aimed at underrepresented individuals because it keeps them separate from everyone else or will make them feel less valued” would get a low score on their awareness of DEI issues and would likely not be hired to teach. Anyone who embraced the constitutional ideal of equality under the law is persona non grata.
Diversity statements have also reintroduced race discrimination into the hiring process, contrary to California’s Proposition 209, which California voters reaffirmed in 2020. DEI statements are enforced with the express goal of hiring underrepresented faculty members. And applicants can score points for discussing their awareness of and experience with diversity. The DEI requirement, therefore, allows hiring committees to impose racial preferences. And faculty members are strongly incentivized to do so as searches may be canceled or postponed if diversity bureaucrats do not like the racial composition of the finalists.
Many members of the UC faculty have courageously spoken out against these diversity mandates, such as Abigail Thompson at UC Davis. She bravely used her platform with the American Mathematical Society to lambast UC’s new loyalty oaths. Based on extensive conversations with these faculty members willing to speak out, I published a law review article pointing out how the use of diversity statements could violate the Constitution.
It seems that someone at UC was listening. A few weeks ago, UC’s Academic Senate voted on new recommendations on using DEI statements that signal a retreat from some of the most egregious abuses of DEI statements. These recommendations clarify that those evaluating DEI statements “should not assume that there is a correct point of view.” Further, the evaluation of these statements is primarily done by faculty; administrators are discouraged from employing fixed DEI rubrics.
Unfortunately, the new announcement also expands the use of DEI statements in significant and troubling ways. For instance, a written assessment of a prospective hire’s contributions to diversity will become a requirement. And within the next two years, these statements will be required not just of future hires but of all current faculty when they are evaluated for potential promotion, tenure, or pay increase. The new guidelines also emphasize that “[l]ife experiences may be an important aspect of candidate statements,” which continues to leave the door open for racial discrimination. So while the new policy may fix some blatantly unlawful practices, it leaves others in place and expands them.
Regrettably, the University of California continues to seek new and innovative ways to impose ideological conformity and engage in racial balancing. In doing so, it moves further and further away from protecting freedom of thought and intellectual diversity.
This op-ed was originally published by California Globe on June 23, 2022.