Diversity Statements Are Getting Cut From These Universities’ Hiring Practices
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
- Lawmakers in 17 states have proposed legislation to change hiring practices at public universities. The schools would no longer consider experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- On April 25, the Board of Education in Idaho banned the use of diversity statements in hiring at four Idaho institutions.
- Three bills have been signed into law, and several others are moving swiftly through the legislative process.
- Individual universities in Texas, North Carolina, and Missouri have already removed diversity statements from hiring and admissions.
At universities across the country, faculty candidates have been asked to write a one- to two-page diversity statement during the application process showing how their accomplishments and goals will advance diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and belonging at the institution.
Each university that requests diversity statements from applicants is "concerned with ensuring that faculty hires are familiar with its diverse student populations and willing to support students in line with the university's mission statement," according to theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's writing center.
According to the University of Pennsylvania, "there is no one type of experience that will be sought by search committees" as long as candidates are making an honest attempt to meet the university's diversity goals.
These statements can be used to consider "reappointment, evaluation, promotion, or tenure decisions," according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).
However, the free-speech advocacy group has found that higher education faculty are split on how they feel about colleges requiring these statements.
A survey conducted by FIRE in August showed that out of almost 1,500 faculty members, half believed diversity statements are "justifiable requirements" for a university job. The other half think that they serve as an "ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom."
In recent months, conservative state lawmakers and university representatives alike have raised concern about the statements and have taken steps toward eliminating them from the hiring process entirely.
These States Want to Eliminate Diversity Statements
So far, 17 states have presented legislation to eliminate diversity statements from the hiring process at public state-funded universities, and three states have outright banned it.
Under House Bill 7, public institutions in Alabama would be prohibited from requiring employees to share their personal point of view on certain "divisive concepts" relating to race, sex, or religion.
The bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. Ed Oliver on Jan. 20, but has since been indefinitely postponed.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have gone to great lengths to reconstruct higher education in Florida in the first three months of 2023.
Under House Bill 999 and its companion Senate Bill 266, public institutions in Florida are prohibited from funding the promotion, support, or maintenance of DEI programs; and from requiring potential hires to submit diversity statements.
On May 15, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis also signed House Bill 931 and its companion Senate Bill 958 on May 15, which explicitly prohibits the state's public institutions from giving preferential consideration for employment or promotion to faculty who show support for "any ideology or movement that promotes the differential treatment of a person or a group of persons based on race or ethnicity, including an initiative or a formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion."
Under Senate Bill 261, introduced on Feb. 27, public institutions in Georgia would have been prohibited from using "political litmus tests" in admissions and promotions within institutions. These tests include a "statement of personal belief in support of any ideology or movement.
The bill has since died in the committee.
The Board of Education in Idaho on April 25 officially banned any future diversity statements in hiring at Idaho State University, Boise State University, Lewis-Clark State College, and the University of Idaho. The Board concluded that these statements "lead to hiring decisions based on factors other than merit."
State Sen. J.R. Claeys introduced an amendment to a budget bill that would block the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and other universities under the Kansas Board of Regents from asking applicants about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Claeys said in an online message that these questions promote "perpetual victimhood, resentment, and division."
According to the Kansas Reflector, even though Claeys declared the amendment would not apply to private, religious-affiliated colleges, the reach of the amendment isn't exactly clear, since community, technical, and independent colleges also receive state funding.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the anti-diversity provisions from the budget bill on April 20, according to the Associated Press.
House Bill 2460, which also looks to eliminate diversity statements, has been adjourned until January, 2024.
Missouri. Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, filed House Bill 1196, which looks to prohibit "discriminatory ideology" in eliminating DEI statements in hiring.
The bill would extend to all job applicants, employees, students, and contractors at public universities.
According to NPR's Kansas City affiliate, state Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Clay County, opposes the legislation, calling it "one of the most detrimental bills" she has ever seen. The bill has since been dropped from the legislative calendar.
Senate Bill 680 would prohibit diversity statements in hiring as well. The bill currently sits with the Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Proposed on April 13 by Republican state Rep. Tyson, House Bill 607 would prohibit the 16 institutions within the University of North Carolina system and community colleges in the state from asking future employees to "describe their actions related to matters of contemporary political debate or social action."
The bill passed in the House on May 2 and has passed the first reading in the Senate.
Gov. Doug Burgum signed Senate Bill 2247 into law on April 24, and it will go into effect starting August 1.
The bill states that institutions under the control of the state board of higher education can not require employees to "endorse a specific ideology or political viewpoint" to be considered for hiring, tenure, or promotion.
Senate Bill 83, or the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act, co-sponsored by Senators Rulli, McColley, Roegner, Brenner, O'Brien, Johnson, and Reynolds, ensures higher education institutions comply with the "prohibition of political and ideological litmus tests" in the hiring process. If passed, the bill would also prohibit mandatory DEI-specific training and offices.
The bill was passed in the Senate and is moving to the House for committee hearings. The Inter-University Council of Ohio wrote a letter to State Senator Cirino to express their concern about the bill's implications, including government overreach, vagueness, and underappreciation of student success programs.
House Bill 33 takes sections of Senate Bill 83––including the removal of required diversity statements––and introduces them to Ohio's two-year state-budget plan. The bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate and awaits the Governor's approval.
On April 6, state representatives from South Carolina proposed two bills: House Bill 4290 and House Bill 4289. Both bills would ban diversity statements in hiring and admissions and currently reside in the House. House Bill 4290 currently has 27 co-sponsors.
House Bill 571, introduced on January 25, would prohibit any state-funded institutions that offer health-related degrees, certification programs, or training, from requiring applicants to "ascribe to DEI ideologies" during the application process. On March 13, the bill was taken off notice.
On March 10, state Sen. Brandon Creighton in Texas filed Senate Bill 17, which requires "color-blind" and "sex-neutral" hiring practices.If a university finds out that an employee has violated the Texas bill, employees can be placed on unpaid leave for the next academic year. Repeat violators would not be considered to work at the university for five years.
The bill was officially signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14.
Utah lawmakers proposed two separate bills: Senate Bill 283, which would eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and officers at all Utah universities, and House Bill 451, which sought to ban schools, both K-12 and at the college level, from asking an applicant anything about their work to further inclusion.
The Senate bill has since been shelved after the bill's sponsor, state Sen. John Johnson, recognized his proposal was "too harsh." The bill dealing with DEI statements has passed in the House, but has yet to pass in the Utah Senate.
On Feb. 14, West Virginia state Del. Chris Pritt proposed House Bill 3503, which would prohibit state universities from requiring diversity statements in any "admissions, hiring, contract renewal, or promotion processes."
And they also could not give preferential consideration to any applicant, student, faculty member, and staff member "due to any opinion expressed or action taken in support of another individual or a group of individuals on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation."
If the bill were passed, diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at Concord University, Glenville State University, Marshall University, Shepherd University, West Liberty University, and West Virginia University would be banned.
So far, the bill has only been filed for introduction.
These Universities Are Making Changes to Diversity Statement Policies
On Feb. 6, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office sent a letter warning public university leaders that the use of "diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives" in hiring violated federal and state employment law, according to The Texas Tribune.
The governor's office is under the impression that hiring practices cannot legally be based on any factor "other than merit," according to the Tribune.
Since then, three of the largest university systems in the state have all scratched diversity statements from their hiring practices.
University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator informed the campus in early March that it would no longer be considering diversity statements or factors in hiring or promoting faculty "in order to ensure compliance with state and federal law."
Institution presidents in the Texas State System received a similar notice from their chancellor, Brian McCall, to remove diversity statements from their hiring practices to "confirm strict adherence to anti-discrimination statutes."
In College Station, Texas A&M leaders standardized their hiring practices as well, now only considering "a cover letter, personal statement, and professional references in hiring," according to The Texas Tribune.
On Feb. 23, across the country in North Carolina, the board of governors at the University of North Carolina (UNC) system removed diversity, equity, and inclusion from hiring and admissions due to free speech concerns.
The new policy prohibits North Carolina universities from forcing individuals to “affirmatively ascribe to or opine about beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action as a condition to admission, employment, or professional advancement," according to The Carolina Journal.
According to The Kansas City Star, the University of Missouri has also scrapped its use of diversity statements in the hiring process.
The University System President and Chancellor Mu Choi said in a letter March 24 to faculty members and department chairs at the system's four campuses that they would replace "loyalty oaths" and "litmus tests" with a "values commitment."
The commitment states: "We value the uniqueness of every individual and strive to ensure each person's success. Contributions from individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives promote intellectual pluralism and enable us to achieve the excellence that we seek in learning, research and engagement. This commitment makes our university a better place to work, learn and innovate."
Applicants would be asked to discuss their "experiences and expertise that support these values," according to The Kansas City Star.