MIT First Among America’s Elite Colleges To Jettison Mandatory ‘Diversity Statements’ for Prospective Employees

A number of states have already banned or cracked down on DEI administrative offices at public colleges and universities.

AP/Mark Schiefelbein
The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sally Kornbluth, during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023. AP/Mark Schiefelbein

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the first elite American university to announce it will no longer require aspiring faculty members to include “diversity statements” as part of their job application — a practice that has become increasingly popular in recent years and that has been criticized by free speech activists. 

Until now, formal diversity, equity, and inclusion statements or commitments have been included as part of the job application process for college and university faculty. 

“Requests for a statement on diversity will no longer be part of applications for any faculty positions at MIT,” a university official said in a statement to UnHerd. The official said that the university’s president, Sally Kornbluth, made the decision “with the support of the Provost, Chancellor, and all six academic deans.”

“We can build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work,” Ms. Kornbluth — one of three Ivy League presidents famously skewered during congressional hearings about antisemitism on campus last year — said in a statement to the outlet.

These DEI statements — requiring job applicants to sign documents pledging their dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce — have become popular in recent years, especially since the Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the 2010s. 

DEI statements have been used to grade job candidates on their track record of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace, and to assess their ability to foster that kind of workplace going forward. According to the American Enterprise Institute, several colleges in the University of California system adopted a grading scale from one to five that assessed candidates’ “knowledge of DEI, track record of DEI, and plans for advancing DEI.”

In 2019, the University of California at Los Angeles made these DEI statements a requirement for promotion and receiving a raise. In a powerpoint published by the university, the school says that faculty seeking promotion or higher salaries must name ways in which they have personally contributed to diversity and inclusion efforts. 

The university listed a number of ways that faculty could contribute to that mission, including “efforts to advance equitable “access to education, public service that addresses the needs of California’s diverse population,” or “research in a scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities.”

The “statements provide the hiring committee with relevant, useful information about a candidate’s qualifications and potential for future success,” UCLA said at the time. “Moreover, a required statement signals that the department genuinely values equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

A quasi-satirical newspaper published by conservative students, faculty, staff, and alumni at MIT, the Babbling Beaver, was the first to report on the changes. The paper said the policy was changed without public notice and at least in part because an anonymous poll of professors at the school found that about two-thirds of faculty hate the statements.

A number of states have cracked down on DEI departments and the practice of requiring statements at public colleges and universities. Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho have all adopted laws that ban or restrict to varying degrees the funding of DEI or the teaching of its core tenets. 

In one of the more famous moments in the war on DEI, Governor DeSantis appointed a number of conservatives to the board at New College, a small, public liberal arts school in his state. The board quickly dismissed all DEI administrators and cracked down on such practices at the school.

Mr. DeSantis himself has already signed legislation that bans funding for such departments, and any instruction that “teaches identity politics, or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States.”

One psychologist, Christopher Ferguson, says of these DEI statements that they do nothing to ensure academic excellence or student success. Rather, the statements and verbal commitments create a “monoculture” across disciplines that have nothing to do with diversity, equity, or inclusion. 

“Demanding allegiance to the DEI worldview for hiring is a guarantee for creating an academic monoculture,” Mr. Ferguson wrote in 2021. Of the grading of DEI statements for job candidates — as the University of California system does — Mr. Ferguson said there is no “evidence provided that higher scores on this rubric are associated with better teaching, including for underrepresented groups.”

The New York Sun

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