American universities’ commitment to merit as the basis for hiring and tenure continues to erode as they increasingly demand adherence to progressive ideology.

The sciences are far from immune to this trend. As reported by Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald in City Journal, earlier this month University of Texas astronomer John Kormendy withdrew an article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences after a draft “drew sharp criticism for threatening the conduct of ‘inclusive’ science.” His book on the same topic has been placed on indefinite hold. Kormendy’s fully peer-reviewed work describes a sophisticated model he developed “to reduce the role of individual subjectivity in scientific hiring and tenure decisions” by predicting scientists’ long-term research impact from early publications. Though he didn’t intend for his model to replace a holistic approach to hiring or granting tenure, as Mac Donald explains, his offense was to focus on the merit of the candidates’ work rather than their race or gender.

Kormendy’s experience is becoming typical. Last month, the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest society devoted to the study of earth and space, declined to name a winner of its most prestigious award solely because all of the rigorously vetted final nominees were white men. In September, MIT abruptly rescinded its invitation to University of Chicago geophysics professor Dorian Abbot to deliver a talk in its prestigious lecture series. Abbot’s offense was an essay for Newsweek that defended the importance of merit in academic evaluations and expressed the view that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) “violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.”

This trend, which is most pervasive in the humanities, includes Europe.

For example, Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia was fired from Europe’s particle-physics consortium, CERN, for observing that, because of inclusion efforts, women were being hired with thinner research records than those of men. Even a visiting dance professor at Oberlin College alleges that she lost out on a permanent position after being told “we can’t just hire another white woman from the Midwest with a husband.”

Judging from the evidence of job postings, the accelerating pace at which universities are announcing DEI policies, and widespread anecdotal evidence, universities are increasingly conditioning their hiring decisions on the vigor of the applicant’s commitment to the controversial and pernicious ideology of DEI. In her contribution to a 2021 book, A Dubious Expediency, Mac Donald provides numerous examples of universities that put racial and gender balance ahead of merit in hiring, promotions, and grant applications. On a related subject, the National Association of Scholars tracks instances of faculty members who are canceled for failing to toe the progressive line. All this continues despite the fact that, by a substantial majority, Americans oppose the use of race and ethnicity as criteria for admissions and hiring. Moreover, the constitutionality and legality of both loyalty tests and racial preferences are questionable.

An American Enterprise Institute study published this month found that 19 percent of the postings on the leading job boards used by universities require a commitment to DEI as a condition for being considered. For universities ranked in the top 100 by U.S. News & World Report, 40 percent of all postings require this commitment. The AEI study concluded that these requirements are likely to grow “substantially,” particularly in elite universities.

These commitments typically require applicants to state their belief in the importance of DEI, cite prior efforts to promote DEI, and pledge to integrate DEI into their role as a faculty member.

In 2018 the University of California led the way for the reintroduction of what is essentially a loyalty oath, some 70 years after it briefly required employees to swear they were not members of the Communist Party, and 50 years after it adopted Standing Order 101.1(d): “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee.” Nonetheless, all candidates for faculty positions now must submit a statement “that describes the candidate’s past, present, and future (planned) contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” which is deemed “vital information.”

In April, the University of Texas at Austin announced its Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. For both hiring and tenure, the plan prioritizes “diversity” over experience, capabilities, or academic contributions. All faculty members must agree to implement DEI in their hiring efforts. Other universities are falling in line (for example, see hereherehere, and here).

The National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES program (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) directs its grants based on inclusiveness, and a related program, Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER), pressures grantees to incorporate diversity into their research. Last year, NIH announced supplemental grants, generally available only for junior researchers who are not white males.

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, refuses to participate in scientific conferences that are insufficiently inclusive, a stance that cuts him off from learning about important advances unless the research is presented by panels selected for gender or race rather than merit.

Signs that merit is being abandoned are present across the education field. Most accreditors for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) require DEI as a condition of accreditation for private K–12 schools, and NAIS further requires each trustee to pledge fealty to “equity and justice” as a condition of serving on a school board. Most college accreditation agencies require a commitment to affirmative action and diversity in admissions and faculty recruitment. The American Bar Association has proposed requiring law schools to implement DEI in admissions, hiring, and promotion. The American Medical Association is taking steps to ensure the same in medical schools.

The consequences of these loyalty oaths and diversity programs are profound.

Abigail Thompson, chair of the math department at UC Davis, warned that the hiring committee at the school is using applicants’ diversity scores to eliminate applicants. At UC Berkeley, an applicant’s commitment to being color- and gender-blind is insufficient: Rather, a commitment to DEI must be demonstrated by a record of acting on it.

Writing for Areo, Andrew Gillen noted that, in 2018–19, of 893 qualified applicants for a life-sciences faculty post at Berkeley, “679 were eliminated solely due to insufficiently woke diversity, equity and inclusion statements.” Gillen warned that this kind of political uniformity can lead to “skewed topic selection, biased methodologies and misinterpreted results,” with the potential to “harm students’ career prospects.”

Not only do DEI loyalty tests threaten academic freedom, faculty quality, and university output, but such tests are legally tenuous, particularly in public universities or universities receiving funding based on DEI criteria. In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), for example, the Supreme Court held that government cannot compel individuals to subscribe to political doctrines, even if broadly acceptable. Numerous civil-rights laws prohibit racial and gender discrimination by federal contractors (see here and here). The constitutionality of DEI itself, particularly in college admissions, may come into sharper focus if the Supreme Court grants certiorari in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, which challenges affirmative action admissions at Harvard.

It appears that our universities have forgotten the lessons they should have learned the last time they demanded loyalty oaths. Instead, they are once again focused on ideology over academic achievement, to the detriment of the latter.

Source minus title: | Image:

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.