Supporting diversity = threat to academic freedom?

Liverpool Central Library, 11March2015, Photo: Anthony Moretti

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that at least two groups equate asking potential hires to confirm their support for diversity to a threat to academic freedom.

The Oregon affiliate of the National Association of Scholars has issued a report accusing colleges in that state and elsewhere of creating “ideological litmus tests” for faculty hiring and promotion by asking candidates for statements discussing their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The statements will deter leading scholars from coming to the state, cause a deleterious effect on research productivity, and serve as an ideological cudgel against scholars with alternative views,” the Oregon Association of Scholars said in issuing the report. It called the statements “a direct threat to academic freedom and research excellence.”

George Leef, director of research at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, a conservative nonprofit group in North Carolina, this week drew national attention to the Oregon report with columns in National Review and on his center’s website. The columns likened the diversity statements to the national loyalty oaths demanded of faculty members during the McCarthy era. He urged Congress and the Education Department to take steps to withhold federal funds from any college that requires current or prospective faculty members to state their positions on political or social issues.

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