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Diversity pledges require loyalty in both ‘thought and deed,’ threatening academic freedom

Diversity has become a mandate on college campuses. A blog post from John S. Rosenberg, the editor of Harvard Magazine writing for Minding the Campus provides a good guide to the methods many colleges, specifically ones in California, are engaging in to achieve their self-imposed diversity goals.

Rosenberg describes a document from the Chief Diversity Officer at San Diego State University. The document announced that the Office of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion was looking for applications for faculty positions that included the inaugural “Provost’s Chair of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion.” The chair will lead an unspecified number of new “Provost’s Professors of Equity in Education.”

These are no ordinary faculty roles, according to Rosenberg:

What is especially noteworthy and perhaps novel here is that although these are ostensibly faculty positions, “all positions will report to the Associate Vice President for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion,” not to any academic dean or department chair. Diversity is getting its own faculty.

The new hires will develop practices to ensure that San Diego State University’s faculty follow the school’s “diversity and inclusion goals and are provided with capacity-building activities that can better empower all personnel to support these efforts,” in part, through training sessions that cover “unconscious and implicit bias, racial/gender microaggressions, teaching practices for underserved students, and cultural competency, and becoming a Hispanic serving institution.”

This quest to eliminate all bias undermines academic freedom, Rosenberg argues. He presents the hypothetical example of James Damore, the controversial author of a memo criticizing orthodoxy about promoting diversity at Google, applying for a job at San Diego State.

“Observing a search committee considering his application would probably call to mind Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, about witchcraft in Salem,” Rosenberg writes.

San Diego State University’s attempts to root out bias are “much more vigorous than anything California and other universities did during McCarthyism to root out radicals,” according to Rosenberg.

California universities are demanding loyalty to diversity in both thought and deed. This goes beyond the historical parallel to McCarthyism because, “The McCarthy era oaths required statements of allegiance and often denial of membership in the Communist Party, but in some respects, today’s oaths go farther by requiring not only affirmations of belief but actions to implement them.”

Supporters of these doctrines “cannot comprehend how being required to genuflect to diversity can have a negative impact on academic freedom,” Rosenberg writes, pointing to the example of Larry Summers’s claims about the underrepresentation of women in high ranks of mathematics that was “widely regarded as beyond the pale, and certainly not the sort of thing a Harvard president could say and keep his job.”

Read the full article.

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