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Massachusetts Institute of Technology departments will no longer ask for diversity statements as part of applications for faculty positions, the university says.

UnHerd, an online publication, reported the news Sunday. An MIT spokeswoman confirmed the change in an email to Inside Higher Ed Tuesday, saying it was directed by MIT president Sally Kornbluth “with the support of the provost, chancellor, vice president for equity and inclusion and all six academic deans.”

In the fall, The New York Times reported that almost half of large U.S. universities require job applicants to write diversity statements. At MIT, the spokeswoman wrote, “the request for a statement on diversity was never an Institute-wide requirement,” but ‘some departments had chosen to make this request of applicants.” She didn’t specify which departments, and MIT didn’t provide interviews Tuesday.

In a statement, Kornbluth said that “My goals are to tap into the full scope of human talent, to bring the very best to MIT, and to make sure they thrive once here. We can build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work.”

Other critics of these statements, including conservatives and free expression advocates, have also labeled them “compelled speech.” The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech advocacy group, says on its website that diversity, equity and inclusion statement policies often involve “compelling faculty to affirm contested views or incorporate them into teaching, research and service activities,” and says that even nonmandatory statements “risk abuse as litmus tests.” In February 2023, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted to ban “compelled speech,” such as requiring applicants to “affirmatively ascribe to or opine about beliefs, affiliations, ideals or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate.”

Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, told Inside Higher Ed Tuesday that “I do not concede that diversity statements constitute a form of compelled speech.” But instead of focusing on defending diversity statements, Granberry Russell advocated for more “structure” in faculty searches: using preset, specified, job-relevant criteria instead of vague terms like someone’s “fit” for a role. She said this structure can reduce the impact of bias and increase diversity in applicant pools.

“Diversity statements, while some may advocate the value of them—and I don’t dispute the extent to which other institutions may believe that they add value—my emphasis is on a structured approach to faculty searches and consistency to that structured approach,” Granberry Russell said.