Enforcing the New Diversity Dogma

by James A. Bacon

This month University of Virginia departments embark upon a four- to five-month “peer review” of faculty members. The stakes are high. Scores from the review will affect merit raises and prospects for promotion.

New this year: twenty percent of the scores will be awarded on the basis of the faculty member’s contributions to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI).

In theory, the “guidance” issued by the dean’s office of the College of Arts & Sciences allows individual departments some latitude in how they conduct their peer reviews. But the language, though bland and formulaic, is clear: professors who fail to enlist in social-justice activism will have a less-than-promising future at UVa.

Evaluations of each faculty member’s “performance” will be shared with other faculty members. There is no uniform standard for weighting the scores, but if departmental reports don’t specify otherwise, the “default” mode is 40% teaching, 40% research, and 20% DEI.

The College’s guidance spells out what the DEI category should include. “The 2021 Faculty Annual reporting form asks all faculty to share their contributions to DEI in the following categories: teaching, advising, publications and presentations, research and grants, service, consulting, honors and awards.”

An Appendix to the guidance document delves into detail. DEI activities may include “efforts to advance equitable access to education, public service, inclusive teaching practices, or research in a scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities…. Recognizing that these contributions can take a variety of forms in different fields, departments need to develop discipline-appropriate expectations in each category.”

As an example, the Appendix provides an extract from a Psychology Department document. Contributions might include:

  • Attending town halls, serving on diversity committees, and participating in DEI workshops.
  • Supporting the Diversifying Psychology Visit Day.
  • Recruiting underrepresented minority students.
  • Facilitating inclusion in the classroom “with particular attention to students who hold marginalized identities.”
  • Designing courses that facilitate inclusion.
  • Creating syllabi that highlight the contributions of underrepresented groups and offer multicultural perspective.
  • Bringing in outside speakers to advance discussions of DEI.
  • Community activism.

“This list is by no means exhaustive,” states the Psychology Department guidelines.

The Appendix gives other examples. Contributions include teaching practices that “allow all students to see their demographic group positively represented in the coursework”; embedding DEI in research/scholarship practices — “methods, results, etc.”; and embedding DEI in outside service activities.

That’s the guidance. The dean’s office also put into place measures to ensure that the guidelines are followed. The first business of the peer evaluation committees, says the guidance, should be to discuss how participants deal with conflicts of interest and to “review possible biases that could affect the review.”

What kind of biases might the document be referring to? “The departmental DDEI (director of diversity, equity & inclusion) should be called upon to direct this discussion.”

These quotes from UVa’s College of Arts & Sciences guidance are by no means isolated examples. Bacon’s Rebellion has documented how job applicants must fill out “diversity statements” as a condition for being considered for employment, as well as ongoing “training” for library employees.

Similar directives exist at other Virginia universities. For example, a College of William and Mary business school document asks for “a statement of values and commitments” to diversity and inclusion.

People are directed to explain how “your own experiences or observations have shaped/equipped you to lead in an inclusive way,” and what future plans and contributions will promote the advancement of inclusive excellence. Some clarifying questions (direct quotes).

  • What are my values regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to my professional self and industry?
  • Why do I think diversity and inclusion work is valuable?
  • What kind of “diversity work” do I visualize as [I] think about my contribution? Are there different approaches to diversity work that I might bring to the table?
  • What elements of my own identity inform [my] leadership and approach to diversity and inclusion work?

Bacon’s bottom line: Banning discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race is a worthy goal. Taking extra pains to reach out to underrepresented groups for recruitment is a worthy goal (as long as standards are upheld). Making all students, of whatever background, feel welcome and comfortable is a worthy goal.

However, giving 20% weight to a professor’s personal commitment to DEI amounts to an ideological litmus test that only left-leaning professors or spineless sycophants can pass. These guidelines will drive away professors and job seekers who don’t enthusiastically embrace social-justice orthodoxy. Diversity statements are a recipe for intellectual stultification and mediocrity, and they have no place in a free society.