Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Small: Oklahoma colleges’ DEI mandates violate free speech

Oklahoma colleges’ DEI mandates violate free speech
By Jonathan Small

The Arizona Board of Regents recently announced that public universities in that state will no longer require “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) statements from job applicants.

Oklahoma colleges and universities should do the same.

The decision to yank DEI statements occurred after a Goldwater Institute report found that applicants were expected to support diversity statements to obtain 28% of job postings at the University of Arizona, 73% of job postings at Northern Arizona University, and 81% of job postings at Arizona State University.

The report found the traditional cover letter had often been replaced with a DEI statement at Arizona universities.

Because “diversity, equity and inclusion” refers to a broad set of ideological beliefs, requiring job applicants to provide a DEI statement effectively requires them to express specific viewpoints – and that violates free-speech rights while indirectly limiting the pool of applicants. Put simply, DEI requirements don’t increase campus diversity; they reduce it.

To provide just one example, DEI endorses the belief that “systemic racism” leaves minorities perpetual victims and whites as perpetual oppressors, even if a minority is a successful CEO while a Caucasian is incarcerated.

As the Goldwater Institute report noted, “Freedom of speech is meaningless without the equal freedom to not speak when one desires to be silent. For a public institution to require what is in essence a loyalty oath to a progressive political vision is to rob citizens of their rights. This will affect not only conservative professors and researchers, but also alienate those with libertarian leanings, moderate or classical liberals, and those who have simply not engaged on polarizing issues of gender and race studies.”

To varying degrees, Florida, Texas, Missouri, and North Carolina have restricted use of DEI statements in college job applications.

But Oklahoma has not.

When the University of Oklahoma sought a law school dean, the job posting stated that the next dean “must” have a commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

A job posting for an assistant professor with a specialty in English education at the University of Central Oklahoma said applicants should include a “philosophy statement regarding culturally responsive pedagogy and diversity, equity, and inclusion in English education.”

At Oklahoma State University, applicants for assistant professor with a specialty in English Education were required to include a diversity statement with their application.

Oklahomans often wonder why our state colleges’ faculty are so out of touch with the average citizen. Now they know one reason why: The hiring process is designed to weed out and deter mainstream thinkers. But our students, and taxpayers in general, deserve better.

The ability to teach academic subjects, and to understand reality, should be the hiring criteria at Oklahoma colleges, not adherence to the latest left-wing fad.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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