In a significant move for free speech advocates, Arizona’s public universities have decided to discontinue the use of “diversity statements” in their hiring processes. This decision is a pivotal pushback against what some see as a veiled attempt to impose a political litmus test within the academic community.
A study conducted earlier this year by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, unveiled that an overwhelming percentage of faculty job postings across institutions like Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University demanded these diversity statements. Arizona State University led the pack, with 81% of its job postings requiring such a statement. The University of Arizona followed with 28%, while Northern Arizona University stood at 73%.
Ditching of DEI statements by three big Arizona universities called ‘a huge victory for academic freedom’https://t.co/oAjM8j7L27
— tekgypsy (@tekgypsy) August 9, 2023
More than just a mere checkbox, specific departments occasionally asked applicants to abandon the standard cover letter, advocating instead for a detailed account of a candidate’s activism or commitment to diversity. In some instances, applicants were encouraged to back progressive concepts, including “intersectional personal identities.”
While the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) clarified that neither the board nor the state schools had ever necessitated these DEI statements, they acknowledged that “some departments at the universities may have included a request for a DEI statement in a job application.” But that will no longer be the case. The board assured that any lingering online job postings with DEI statement requests will be updated to remove them.
Championing this change, Goldwater Institute president and CEO Victor Riches expressed, “The elimination of diversity statements is a huge victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment.” The think tank had previously made a strong case, citing such requirements as unconstitutional under the First Amendment and Arizona’s state Constitution. Arizona’s Constitution, in fact, clearly articulates that “no religious or political test or qualification shall ever be required” for roles in the state’s public educational establishments.
Jonathan Butcher, a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute, further pointed out that such DEI mandates did not necessarily foster free expression or an expansive diversity of thought. He stated, “DEI programs and ‘statements’ are rooted in the racially discriminatory worldview known as critical race theory.”
Arizona’s stance against DEI requirements in hiring isn’t isolated. Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and the University of Missouri system have taken similar steps, reflecting a broader sentiment against potentially discriminatory practices in academic hiring.
The Goldwater Institute has been at the forefront, partnering with other intellectual entities to craft legislative proposals to counter DEI ideology in U.S. higher education. Their efforts bore fruit when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a bill prohibiting “diversity statements” in hiring and promotion decisions, with Texas soon following suit with its reforms.
As states pivot toward more objective and inclusive hiring practices, Butcher encapsulated the sentiment best: “Schools will be judging people by their choices and merit instead of by skin color.”
Here’s a local report from earlier this year regarding a similar move to temper DEI discrimination in Texas: