ACTA in the News | Freedom of Expression

When Arizona universities force diversity and inclusion, they get neither

Arizona's three public universities want some faculty applicants to support an ideologically driven approach to diversity and inclusion. That's wrong.
AZCENTRAL   |  July 12, 2023 by Karrin Taylor Robson and Steven McGuire

Arizona’s public universities must stop requiring applicants for faculty positions to demonstrate compliance with institutionally prescribed orthodoxies concerning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Requiring DEI statements or otherwise asking candidates to address DEI in their applications is coerced speech and undermines the crucial diversity of sociopolitical ideas.

If some effort is underway to eliminate these ideological litmus tests, we would like to see the evidence.

You must sign a statement to work there

Earlier this year, the Goldwater Institute reported that a large percentage of faculty job postings at Arizona’s public universities require applicants to submit a diversity statement:

  • 81% at Arizona State University (ASU),
  • 28% at the University of Arizona (UA) and
  • 73% at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

Current advertisements for positions in the Barrett honors college at ASU and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UA require them.

Positions in elementary education and business administration at NAU list a commitment to diversity as a preferred qualification.

All students must be welcome and respectfully treated at Arizona’s universities.

But mandated statements improperly require faculty to demonstrate their “commitment” to specific, ideological approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion.

How is that not an ideological litmus test?

For example, instructions offered by NAU encourage applicants to discuss “intersectional personal identities,” a reference to the idea of intersectionality developed by critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Individual professors are free to articulate and defend this theory, but they should not be asked to endorse it to be hired.

The instructions also encourage applicants to explain “past or future integration of DEI aspects or issues into your research activities.”

Do Arizonans believe every professor’s research must address these issues?

A recent national survey of college and university professors conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) found that half of respondents — and 90% of conservative respondents — agree that soliciting DEI statements during hiring is an ideological litmus test.

Is that not enough to demonstrate that using such statements is a violation of the principles of free speech and academic freedom?

It could violate the Arizona Constitution

Many organizations, moreover, that defend academic freedom on American campuses, including the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, FIRE and the Academic Freedom Alliance, are against the use of diversity statements in hiring.

Public universities in other states, including Florida, Texas, Missouri and Wisconsin, have prohibited their use. Arizona’s institutions should join them.

It is arguable that this practice also violates the First Amendment. Psychologist J.D. Haltigan and the Pacific Legal Foundation recently filed suit against the University of California–Santa Cruz for requiring faculty applicants to submit diversity statements.

Mandating faculty applicants to profess certain political and ideological views in seeking employment may eventually be deemed unconstitutional: At a minimum, such practices violate the spirit of the First Amendment and are incompatible with academic freedom.

As the Goldwater Institute report observes, these statements appear to violate the Arizona State Constitution, which states that “no religious or political test or qualification shall ever be required as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state, as teacher, student, or pupil.”

Arizona should ban this practice

In the era of McCarthyism, when professors were required to take loyalty oaths, America’s universities pushed back against the federal government’s violation of academic freedom.

Today, the roles are reversed.

Government must now be ready to protect students and faculty at American universities from those within who are demanding that every faculty applicant declare support for ideologically predetermined approaches to diversity and inclusion.

If Arizona’s public universities do not quickly do the right thing on their own, the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona lawmakers should lead the way and ban the use of these statements in hiring, promotion and tenure decisions.

They might even go so far as to adopt the principles of the University of Chicago’s 1970 Shils Report, which declared that appointment and promotion decisions should be based on excellence in research, teaching and service without regard for candidates’ ideological positions or past political activities.

This piece appeared on azcentral on July 12, 2023.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More