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‘Momentum undeniably growing’: More elite colleges look to end DEI hiring mandates

Yale, Columbia still use DEI in hiring as other elite colleges like MIT, Harvard abandon practice

Earlier this month, the Cornell Free Speech Alliance sent a memo to supporters with apparent good news — the Ivy League university had recently removed information and links about mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion statements from faculty recruitment and hiring webpages.

“When Will Cornell terminate its use of DEI statements? Based on the above reported observation,” the memo stated, “CFSA hopes the answer is NOW!”

Cornell spokesperson Lindsey Knewstub told The College Fix the university has no comment on the matter at this time.

But if Cornell does officially scrap its requirements, it would not be the first elite institution to end the use of mandatory DEI statements as part of the hiring decision process. In May, MIT ended the practice. In early June, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences followed suit.

“The momentum is undeniably growing,” said scholar John Sailer, who over the last year has focused his extensive research on how DEI has embedded itself in higher education.

While many public universities in recent years have been forced to end mandatory diversity statements due to legislation or Board of Trustees directives in states such as Florida, Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere, private elite institutions are immune to such controls.

But Sailer, in an email to The College Fix, said more elite institutions will likely end the practice.

“Some elite universities are clawing back diversity statements, and others will likely follow. Why? Because a lot of faculty of all political stripes hate the policy,” said Sailer, a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars.

“It’s almost impossible to justify with a straight face. Even Paulette Granberry Russell, the president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, could only muster up a half-hearted defense of the policy when asked about it by the New York Times.”

Sailer, meanwhile, is busy naming and shaming the elite colleges that still do. Writing for the Free Press, he recently exposed how Yale and Columbia universities use rubrics to evaluate a candidate’s commitment to DEI practices as part of their hiring process.

At Yale, the candidate’s “knowledge of DEI and commitment to promoting DEI,” “past DEI experiences and activities,” and “future DEI goals and plans” are graded on a scale of zero to three, according to the rubric.

For a candidate to gain the highest score on the DEI rubric at Yale, they must have “clear knowledge of DEI issues,” “demonstrate strong interest in contributing to promoting DEI in teaching, research, and service,” have a “sustained track-record of multiple efforts in promoting DEI,” and have a “clear and detailed plan for promoting DEI through teaching, research, and service,” it states.

Columbia uses a very similar rubric. While evaluating a candidate, Columbia asks about their “knowledge about diversity, equity, and inclusion,” their “track record in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and their “plans for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

A high-scoring candidate at Columbia would show “knowledge of, experience with, and interest in dimensions of diversity that result from other identities,” “strategies to create inclusive and welcoming teaching environments for all underrepresented students,” “strategies for promoting inclusive and respectful research environments,” and “participation with … meetings that aim to increase diversity.”

Sailer told The Fix that for faculty who dislike the practice, “it’s the ideal time for faculty to push back in places where the policy might seem untouchable.”

“[A]ll it takes is outspoken faculty, which is absolutely the reason that MIT scrapped the policy and Harvard has made changes in that direction,” he said.

“But that doesn’t mean the work ends,” he added, noting there are “holdout institutions that will probably cling to the worst practices in higher education for years to come.”

In particular, he cited a September 2023 report he authored for NAS detailing how Emory and Vanderbilt universities extensively employ DEI in their hiring practices without much notice.

What’s more, Sailer added: “There can still be discrimination in hiring, both racial and ideological, even if there aren’t overt policies condoning it.”

As The College Fix reported in May, for example, Arizona State University continues to ask potential job candidates questions regarding their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion despite a board policy prohibiting the use of diversity statements in hiring.

In effect, Goldwater Institute spokesman Joe Seyton said, “administrators have simply scrubbed the formal diversity statement requirements from job listings, only to then bury them deeper in the application process away from public view.”

MORE: DEI statement mandatory for Bates College earth science faculty applicants

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Katlyn Anderson is a student at East Tennessee State University pursuing a degree in English and a minor in Human Development and Learning.