My Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Statement for a Recent Academic Job Posting
A Principled Stand Against Mandatory DEI Statements in Academic Job Hiring
Note to readers: As many of my readers are aware, the use of mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements in the academic setting for hiring, promotion, tenure, and other forms of advancement or public acknowledgement are pervasive. Many public intellectuals, academics, legislators, and investigative journalists have raised alarms about the use of the DEI rubric on several grounds including civil rights, discrimination, and more generally the degradation of academic research and teaching in the university setting. I share these views and believe the DEI rubric in the Academy has also contributed to creating a corrosive and hostile environment that is intolerant of viewpoint diversity and is anathema to high-quality research and teaching. When a recent university job posting for a position I believe I am well-suited for came to my attention, I decided to apply for the position and penned the below statement for my DEI element of the application. I am posting it here, in its entirety with only university-identifying information redacted, as I strongly believe taking a principled stand against the use of the DEI rubric in the Academy is crucial for the continued survival of our institutions of higher learning as they were intended: bastions of the unfettered pursuit of knowledge and truth and the immersion of its students into the principles of liberal discourse and the development of critical thought.
John D. Haltigan, Ph.D
University of ***** Faculty Position Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Statement
Against the use of DEI Statements in Faculty Job Searches
Throughout the course of my academic trajectory, I have had several research and teaching experiences which have enabled me to contribute to diversity through research, teaching, and service. In addition to these experiences as part of my educational training, my experience in the mental health field working with adolescents from a variety of ethnic and sociocultural backgrounds has provided me with a deep appreciation of the importance of a sensitivity to the social and cultural factors that shape human development. I am committed to colorblind inclusivity, viewpoint diversity, merit-based evaluation, and value outreach to underrepresented groups in higher education. Across all of my teaching and mentorship, I have endeavored to treat students and mentees equally, without regard to identity-based characteristics. Taken together, the above experiences position me well to carry out the mission of the University of ***** which is described as:
(a) providing high-quality undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences and professional fields, with emphasis upon those of special benefit to the citizens of *****; (b) offering superior graduate programs in the arts and sciences and the professions that respond to the needs of *****, as well as to the broader needs of the nation and the world; (c) engaging in research, artistic, and scholarly activities that advance learning through the extension of the frontiers of knowledge and creative endeavor; (d) cooperating with industrial and governmental institutions to transfer knowledge in science, technology, and health care; (e) offering continuing education programs adapted to the personal enrichment, professional upgrading, and career advancement interests and needs of adult *****; and (f) making available to local communities and public agencies the expertise of the University in ways that are consistent with the primary teaching and research functions and contribute to social, intellectual, and economic development in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
However, I believe that the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements in evaluating candidates for positions in higher education and academia are anathema to the ideals and principles of rigorous scholarship, and the sound practice of science and teaching—all of which public universities were created to uphold. DEI statements have become a political litmus test for political orientation and activism that has created an untenable situation in higher academia where diversity of thought—the bedrock of liberal education—is neither promoted nor tolerated. Public trust in our universities has been severely diminished as a consequence. As the noted American sociologist and sociocultural scholar Philip Rieff noted decades ago in relation to the vogue for politically engaged teaching and scholarship “inactivism is the ticket.”
Several recent investigative journalism efforts have documented how DEI statements have been used to screen and penalize applicants for not possessing ‘correct’ political ideas or endorsing activist ideologies, such as the ‘anti-racist’ strand of ‘scholarship’ developed and promoted by Ibram Kendi as well as concepts such as “intersectionality”, a term coined by one of the architects of critical race theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Most crucially, what is meant by “equity” is inconsistent with the principle of ‘equal opportunity’ and is used to denote equal outcomes irrespective of inherent capability or merit; disparities in outcome are ipso facto taken as indicating social oppression or injustice; other factors—including biological or genetic ones—are dismissed out of hand. These exposés have lead administrators at several institutions to harshly criticize DEI-based research and scholarship and to suspend the use of mandatory DEI statements in hiring and promotion.
Moreover, there is a growing recognition among scholars, public intellectuals, and elected legislators that mandatory DEI statements are not only unethical, but also serve to preclude the very attributes they presume to enhance, instead creating censorious, divisive, polarizing, and otherwise inhospitable workplace cultures that are at odds with the core principles upon which public universities have been founded. In short, the institutionalization of DEI has become an iatrogenic force, making the university ill-suited to producing reliable knowledge. Indeed, the Academic Freedom Alliance called for an end to mandatory diversity statements. Renowned social psychologist and liberal public intellectual Jonathan Haidt publicly announced his resignation from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology over required DEI statements. Several other scholars have called for the abolition of DEI statements citing their violations of civil rights law, use as political screeners, and more generally creating a divisive and dysfunctional workplace culture. Most recently, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has introduced model legislation that aims to address DEI bureaucracy’s “chilling effect on campus”.
My Vision to Encourage Diversity, Inclusion, & High-Quality Learning
I look forward to continuing to engage in mentoring activities, research activities, and community outreach that enhance viewpoint diversity and encourage attention to high quality, rigorous scholarship, research, and teaching at the University of *****. I value outreach that encourages diversity and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in higher education and welcome collaborative opportunities with others who do not necessarily share the same ideological standpoint as my own. As can be gleaned from my curriculum vitae, I am a member of Heterodox Academy, a non-partisan collaborative of educators who believe open inquiry, diverse viewpoints, and constructive disagreement are critical to research and education. I have provided mentorship to several students from underrepresented minority groups. Many of these students explicitly sought out my mentorship due to my clear position, communicated on social media, that I reject activist ‘scholarship’ that is neither conceptually coherent nor methodologically sound.
I will continue my biologically and genetically informed research in developmental psychopathology that addresses questions relevant to disparate outcomes across different ethnic and cultural groups. Findings from my previous work, published in Child Development, provided insight into how the legacy of economic hardship may, in conjunction with biological and genetic factors, contribute to different stylistic ways of talking about early life attachment experiences among African American pregnant women. I subsequently extended this work (Haltigan et al., 2019, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry), and aim to programmatically advance work aimed at improving our understanding of how underrepresented minority groups and other immigrant populations talk about their early life and attachment experiences. Such work provides an opportunity to identify aspects of resilience in diverse underrepresented populations that can inform prevention and intervention science, and promote child, family, and community health amongst these populations (Beal Spencer et al., 2006).
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