Harvard Prof. Calls For the End of Mandatory DEI Statements for Faculty, Students

Harvard law professor Randall L. Kennedy, who describes himself as “a scholar on the left committed to struggles for social justice,” penned an op-ed as part of a Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard “calling out DEI ideology and the practice of forcing prospective professors to submit a statement describing their “orientation toward diversity, equity, and inclusion practices,” reports the Washington Examiner.

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“By requiring academics to profess — and flaunt — faith in DEI, the proliferation of diversity statements poses a profound challenge to academic freedom,” Kennedy wrote Tuesday.

“By overreaching, by resorting to compulsion, by forcing people to toe a political line, by imposing ideological litmus tests, by incentivizing insincerity, and by creating a circular mode of discourse that is seemingly impervious to self-questioning, the current DEI regime is discrediting itself,” he continued.

Conservative professors across America have been questioning DEI statements from the beginning. Campuses are split almost evenly on the necessity and utility of DEI statements, but Professor Kennedy has nailed the primary objection to DEI statements.

“Creating a circular mode of discourse that is seemingly impervious to self-questioning,” is the antithesis of academic freedom. 

Using an application from Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Kennedy noted a requirement to answer several questions signaling both belief in the ideology and action taken on its behalf. “How does your research engage with and advance the well-being of socially marginalized communities?” one question he cited asks, while another asks, “Do you know how the following operate in the academy: implicit bias, different forms of privilege, (settler-)colonialism, systemic and interpersonal racism, homophobia, heteropatriarchy, and ableism?”

“DEI statements will essentially constitute pledges of allegiance that enlist academics into the DEI movement by dint of soft-spoken but real coercion: If you want the job or the promotion, play ball — or else,” the law professor wrote.

Kennedy went on to describe the stranglehold the DEI bureaucracy has on academic freedom, such as creating an inability to question its importance and discouraging conservative thought in academia.

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“In addition to exerting pressure towards leftist conformity, the process of eliciting diversity statements abets cynicism,” he said. “Detractors reasonably suspect that underneath the uncontroversial aspirations for diversity statements — facilitating a more open and welcoming environment for everyone — are controversial goals including the weeding out of candidates who manifest opposition to or show insufficient enthusiasm for the DEI regime.”

Kennedy is destroying the myth that DEI statements are a means to ensure that a broad spectrum of races, creeds, and ideologies are represented on a university faculty. Instead, they are litmus tests for prospective professors who know that if they don’t answer questions correctly, they won’t be hired.

In short, the whole DEI movement is a sham. The idea of creating a diverse faculty is an “in-joke” among DEI advocates. And Kennedy is exposing the flim-flam for all to see.

Kennedy’s piece ran in tandem with the opposing viewpoint, as is the practice of the Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard. That piece, authored by philosophy professor and Council co-president Edward J. Hall, argued not to “eliminate” but rather to “improve” DEI.

However, Hall did criticize the ideological origins of the hiring practices as when the “post-modernism-infested corners of academia, began to break out into the mainstream,” where “one began to hear pronouncements like: ‘The teacher who refuses to interrogate the structures of oppression within which they operate will merely reproduce those structures in their classroom’; ‘the best teachers enable students to find their own truths’; ‘the very distinction between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ enacts systemic violence.”

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That people like that are responsible for educating our best and brightest should fill us all with dread.

It appears that some conservatives like Govs. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) were ahead of the curve on this issue. With some on the left questioning DEI statements as well, I expect a general retrenchment by the left on the scope and power of DEI statements. 

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