Diversity statements, which ask candidates for jobs and promotions to describe how they can contribute to an institution’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, are under attack around the country. Lawmakers in at least 10 states have filed legislation to ban the use of diversity statements in higher education, making them the most common target of legislation to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. With or without such laws, public universities and university systems in many states, including Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin have stopped using diversity statements. And recently, a lawsuit was filed against the University of California system challenging their legality.
Diversity statements have been around since at least the mid-2010s, but they have drawn significant criticism as they grew in popularity in recent years. Supporters argue they can help colleges assess what candidates have accomplished in their teaching, research, and service to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. But opponents argue the statements serve as political or ideological litmus tests and violate academic freedom.
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Tabbye Chavous, who is now vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, made the case for diversity statements in a Q. & A. on its website here.
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Ching-Yune C. Sylvester, Laura Sánchez-Parkinson, Matthew Yettaw, and Tabbye Chavous from the University of Michigan analyzed diversity statements from 39 job candidates for assistant-professor positions to form a framework that can be used by job applicants writing diversity statements and reviewers evaluating the statements.