The Academic Freedom Alliance on Monday released a statement urging colleges and universities to end diversity statements as conditions of employment or promotion. “This scenario is inimical to fundamental values that should govern academic life,” the group’s statement says. “The demand for diversity statements enlists academics into a political movement, erasing the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity. It encourages cynicism and dishonesty.”
Janet Halley, co-chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee and Eli Goldston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, said in a separate announcement that “Academics seeking employment or promotion will almost inescapably feel pressured to say things that accommodate the perceived ideological preferences of an institution demanding a diversity statement, notwithstanding the actual beliefs or commitments of those forced to speak.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, among other groups, also opposes mandatory diversity statements. Limited research into what applicants actually write in their diversity statements challenges notions that they are political litmus tests, however; one 2018 study found that these candidates’ statements consistently emphasized their experience, in themes that the researchers categorize as follows: “values and understanding” of diversity, equity and inclusion; teaching, research and scholarship; engagement and service; mentorship, skill building and personal growth; and personal backgrounds.