ACTA in the News | Freedom of Expression

AZ universities drop use of diversity, equity and inclusion statements in job applications

AZCENTRAL   |  August 10, 2023 by Ray Stern

The Arizona Board of Regents said Tuesday the state’s public universities have dropped the use of diversity, equity and inclusion statements in job applications, a move that follows demands by the conservative Goldwater Institute.

In statements to The Arizona Republic, spokespeople from the Board of Regents, which oversees the university system, and Arizona State University said that “DEI statements” were “never” required.

However, examples of job postings shows this is not true.

For instance, a current posting for a postdoctoral research scholar in ASU’s Institute of Human Origins states that “required” materials to be submitted by applicants includes “a statement addressing how your past and/or present potential contributions to diversity and inclusion will advance ASU’s commitment to inclusive excellence.”

That’s just the type of required statement that the Goldwater Institute criticized in a January report titled “The New Loyalty Oaths: How Arizona’s public universities compel job applicants to endorse progressive politics.”

The report details a review of job listings at ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University conducted in October, concluding that the schools use the statements to “circumvent the state’s constitutional prohibition against political litmus tests in public educational institutions.” More than a quarter of UA’s job postings required a DEI statement, while NAU and ASU required them in 73% and 81% of postings, respectively.

Examples included a fall 2022 NAU posting for a geographer that said applications must include “a statement of teaching philosophy including evidence of teaching effectiveness or interest and commitment to diversity and inclusion (recommended two pages),” and an undated UA posting for a molecular biology instructor that asked prospects for a cover letter “describing the candidate’s personal philosophy on classroom inclusiveness and how the candidate will exhibit the philosophy in the classroom.”

Former Republican governor candidate Karrin Taylor Robson and Steven McGuire of the right-of-center American Council of Trustees and Alumni wrote an op-ed column critical of the practice last month, calling DEI statements for job applicants “coerced speech” that “undermines the crucial diversity of sociopolitical ideas.”

McGuire, who works in Philadelphia for the Washington, D.C.-based group, praised the universities’ decision on Tuesday and said he hoped they “live up to it.”

“Of course you want teachers and employees who are going to be open to working with people of all different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences,” he said. “But what often happens with these statements — it becomes a kind of ideological litmus test. … They communicate to people there’s a right way to think if you want to work here.”

The Goldwater Institute issued a news release on Tuesday saying that it had struck a “death blow” to the practice that universities were now eliminating.

ASU spokeswoman Veronica Sanchez said she could not immediately say when ASU stopped requiring the diversity statements. She added that their use “is not essential to ASU’s commitment to inclusive excellence found in the ASU charter” and that the university has one of the most diverse student populations in the country.

Asked about existing job postings that contain the requirement, Sanchez said, “It’s important to note that sometimes removing certain job postings online takes time.”

Sarah Harper, Board of Regents spokesperson, said that some posted job applications still may include a “request” for a DEI statement, but that “universities are updating those job postings to remove the request for DEI statements.”

“This is a huge victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment,” Victor Riches, Goldwater’s president and CEO, said in the news release. “The Goldwater Institute is continuing to show the nation how to defeat the destructive ideologies that are crippling colleges and universities.”

Officials with the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the practice.

DEI training at universities also has been attacked by conservatives across the country, including in Arizona, where a bill introduced by Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, leader of the state’s right-wing Freedom Caucus, aimed to prohibit it.

The bill failed to generate enough support among lawmakers, but a similar ban went into effect in Florida earlier this year.

This article appeared on azcentral on August 8, 2023.


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