From InsideHigherEd, here:
December’s Notices of the American Mathematical Society contains a surprising column on Page 4, given that mathematicians have not been on the front lines of debates about diversity and campus speech.
The column, by Abigail Thompson, chair of math at the University of California, Davis, and one of the society’s vice presidents, says that today’s diversity statements are like the political litmus tests of the McCarthy era.
“In 1950 the Regents of the University of California required all UC faculty to sign a statement asserting that ‘I am not a member of, nor do I support any party or organization that believes in, advocates, or teaches the overthrow of the United States Government, by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional means, that I am not a member of the Communist Party,’” Thompson says. Those who refused to sign were fired. [Full disclosure: My Dad had to sign one of these – apparently helping liberate North Africa, Sicily, and France was not enough proof of his loyalty.]
Now, “Faculty at universities across the country are facing an echo of the loyalty oath, a mandatory ‘Diversity Statement’ for job applicants.” The “professed purpose” of these statements is to identify candidates “who have the skills and experience to advance institutional diversity and equity goals,” Thompson wrote. But “in reality it’s a political test, and it’s a political test with teeth.” ..
UO requires these statements for hiring and promotion. Originally they were bargained for by the faculty union, as a way for women and minorities to get credit for the high service burdens they face. The administration quickly picked up on them as a way to increase their control of faculty hiring and promotion. The most blatant example is from AVP Melanie Muenzer’s “search advocates” initiative, which puts mandatory “thought partners” on faculty hiring committees, which starts off as if it’s about ensuring efforts are made to get diverse candidate pools on the basis of race and gender – something easy to agree with – but then goes on in a way that can be read as if it is about making sure that new hires subscribe to particular beliefs, which of course reduces intellectual diversity:
- Providing guidance and serving as a thought partner to the search committee during the review of candidates including the steps to select candidates for phone or online interviews, invitations for campus visits, and final selection
- As needed, making recommendations to the provost on extensions or continuation of searches that may be struggling to recruit candidates or have challenges during the review and selection phases of the search
This concern about is strengthened by the fact that the new instructions for Provost Phillips’s Institutional Hiring Plan warn that departments that lack collegiality are unlikely to be given lines for new hires.
So if your department has a lot of plainspoken faculty who vocally disagree on intellectual matters no new hires for you until you zip it and sign that loyalty oath.