Guest Commentary: Should diversity, equity and inclusion be required in academics’ work?


Thomas C. Patterson is a retired physician and former Arizona state senator, who lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Jonathan Haidt is a professor at New York University, an acknowledged leader in the field of social psychology and a champion of free speech. He recently faced a requirement that all scholars wishing to present research to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology were to submit a statement explaining “whether and how this submission advanced the equity, inclusion, and anti-racism goals of SPSP.”

He resigned instead. This was no small sacrifice, but Haidt takes his principles seriously. Moreover, as he pointed out on his way out the door, “Most academic work has nothing to do with diversity.”

Scholars working, for example, on ultra-bright nanostructured photo emission electron studies would be required to present their “anti-racist“ bona fides. Academics in all disciplines, as well as administrators, would be forced to “betray their quasi-fiduciary duty to the truth by spinning, twisting, or otherwise inventing some tenuous connection to diversity.”

This is not just another quibble among pointy-headed academics. Refusing jobs to dissenters is meant to quash the last remnant of open debate in American higher education.

Our universities, particularly the elite, were once celebrated as sanctuaries for unpopular ideas, where free discourse was sacrosanct and where no one needed to face fear of censure over doctrinal disputes.

But, when the left achieved numerical domination in the majority of universities over recent decades, their mind-set evolved into rooting out the few dissenters in their midst or, better yet, blocking them from getting a job in the first place.

The reason so-called anti-racists feel justified in forcing their views into unrelated disciplines, such as the hard sciences, is that they view the entire world through the lens of race. Ibram X. Kendi, the leading proponent of anti-racism, writes, “There is no such thing as a non-racist or race-neutral policy.”

Their opinions on everything from raising taxes (good) to merit-based promotion in schools (bad) are race-based. It follows that, if you disagree with their views, then you’re a racist.

The philosophy of anti-racism is profoundly anti-education and anti-merit. Colleges and universities are less and less committed to the search for truth or the transmission of knowledge. Instead, they are in thrall to the endless dictates of the ironically titled “social justice” bureaucracy.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Offices larger than many academic departments (and better paid) are now sprouting in the halls of academia. Twenty-five percent of all universities now mandate diversity, equity and inclusion statements from job applicants, and 40% more are considering jumping on the bandwagon.

Such statements are loyalty oaths to race-based ideologies, similar to those required by authoritarian regimes throughout history. They often demand evidence of the applicant’s past support of notions like critical race theory, which holds that an individual’s tendency to racial bias can be reliably determined from their skin color.

To our state’s shame, Arizona’s universities have enthusiastically thrown themselves into the front lines of this movement. According to a Goldwater Institute report, Arizona State University last fall required diversity, equity and inclusion loyalty oaths for 81% of all job applicants. Northern Arizona University was at 73%, while the University of Arizona demanded 28% bend the knee to be considered for a job.

Such required ideological allegiance makes a mockery of the value of any research these aspiring scholars may do. The results are predetermined. In 2020, two major research organizations and 16 scientific societies issued a joint statement that researchers “must stand against the notion that systemic racism does not exist.” No research was cited.

Topics like urban crime, immigration and welfare fraud are rarely studied when only the approved narrative is permitted anyway. Ignoring data inconsistent with the agenda gives us startling conclusions, as when “scientists” proclaimed that family dinners and church services were COVID-19 “superspreaders,“ while massive racial protests and pro-abortion rallies were no problem.

The left has a way with words. Diversity now means rigid conformity. Equity stands for unearned equal outcomes. Inclusion means exclusion of dissenters.

But Americans are starting to catch on. Outraged parents are protesting overt racism in school curricula. A growing number of universities and corporations are pulling back on diversity, equity and inclusion mandates. In Arizona, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1024 is a proposed constitutional amendment that will hopefully be on the ballot next election. It would eliminate racist instruction in our public schools.

Take heart.

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