Harvard Nixes DEI Statements As Requirement For Faculty Employment Applications

The change comes after pressure from faculty members who said the statements discourage conservative applicants
Harvard students and alumnae attend a Harvard football game.
Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences is eliminating the requirement for prospective tenure-track faculty members to submit a statement on how they will promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser announced the change Monday, stating that it came about in response to numerous faculty members who said the requirement could be confusing for foreign applicants and was “too narrow in the information they attempted to gather,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

“This broader perspective acknowledges the many ways faculty contribute to strengthening their academic communities, including efforts to increase diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” Zipser wrote, defending the move.

Instead, applicants who are finalists will be required to submit two other documents: a service statement focused on their “efforts to strengthen academic communities,” and a teaching and advising statement about how they will help create a “learning environment in which students are encouraged to ask questions and share their ideas.”

Faculty members seeking promotions will also no longer be required to submit DEI statements, according to the Crimson.

Harvard’s FAS, which includes the undergraduate school and some graduate schools, began requiring the statements five years ago, according to the Boston Globe. Critics argue that the statements are a way to test the political leanings of applicants.

Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy made the case against DEI statements, accusing them of asking candidates to “support ideological commitments” and challenging academic freedom.

“I am a scholar on the left committed to struggles for social justice. The realities surrounding mandatory DEI statements, however, make me wince,” Kennedy, who is Black, wrote in the Crimson. “The practice of demanding them ought to be abandoned, both at Harvard and beyond.”

He added that the statements discourage applicants who are conservative. 

“It does not take much discernment to see, moreover, that the diversity statement regime leans heavily and tendentiously towards varieties of academic leftism and implicitly discourages candidates who harbor ideologically conservative dispositions,” he wrote.

Harvard has been under fire for its pro-DEI sentiment folllowing the ouster of former President Claudine Gay after accusations of plagiarism amid rising anti-Semitism under her leadership.

Harvard named a DEI advocate Vivian Hunt to serve as its new president of the Board of Overseers. In her position she will have the ability to weigh in on the choosing of Harvard’s next president.

Hunt has a history of advocating against treating people equally, according to a 2020 interview

“A neutral position that is meritocratic, that is good at treating people evenly, isn’t good enough. It allows the bias that is in our systems … it allows it to perpetuate,” Hunt said. “You have to proactively stand for an antiracism environment.”

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