Culture, Politics

Colleges Used to be Just “Woke”; Now They’re Something Uglier

In 2021, the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine—ranked fourth in the country for primary care—released a 24-page “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Strategic Action Plan,” listing dozens of “tactics” for advancing “diversity and racial equity” over the ensuing half-decade. One of those tactics reads: “Include a section in promotion packages where faculty members report on the ways they are contributing to improving DEI, anti-racism and social justice.” The plan promises to “reinforce the importance of these efforts by establishing clear consequences and influences on promotion packages.”

OHSU’s policy represents the latest stage in the institutional entrenchment of DEI programming. Universities have long required diversity statements for faculty hiring—short essays outlining one’s contributions to DEI and future plans for advancing DEI. Since it began almost a decade ago, the policy has been criticized as a thinly veiled ideological litmus test. Whether you see it as one largely depends on whether you think DEI is simply a set of corporate “best practices” like any other, or constitutes a rigid set of political and social views. In any event, the diversity statements and criteria have only expanded, and are now commonly required for promotion, tenure, and faculty evaluation.

A quick search for academic jobs inevitably yields dozens or hundreds of positions that require diversity statements. In November 2021, the American Enterprise Institute conducted a survey of faculty jobs and found that 19% required them, a number that is likely to grow. At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, applicants seeking positions in chemical and biomolecular engineering must submit a one-page “Statement describing candidate’s approach to and experience with diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.” At the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, despite a new law that prohibits requiring job applicants “to endorse a specific ideology or political viewpoint,” applicants for a job in political science must submit a “statement concerning experience with and plans for contributing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Meanwhile, every open faculty position listed by Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, including roles in econometrics, freshwater biology, and astronomy, requires some variation of a statement “articulating the applicant’s demonstrated commitments and capacities to contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion through research, teaching, mentoring, and/or outreach and engagement.” Read more…

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