Adam’s Letter to the Editor at Virginia Tech on Mandatory ‘Diversity Accomplishments’

By April 10, 2009

FIRE’s Adam Kissel wrote a letter to the editor of the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, in response to a column last week by Ellington Graves challenging FIRE’s criticism of Virginia Tech’s diversity requirements for faculty members and accusing FIRE of rendering a "poorly reasoned analysis." Adam sets the record straight.

Readers should examine the policy documents and FIRE’s analysis for themselves at www.thefire.org. In particular, they should read Provost McNamee’s May 29, 2008, memo to all department heads and to promotion and tenure committees, in which he demands, "Candidates must do a better job of participating in and documenting their involvement in diversity initiatives. Diversity accomplishments are especially important for candidates seeking promotion to full professor."

Graves publicly and falsely accuses us of being motivated not by a desire to protect faculty rights, but instead by a desire to "stamp out" efforts at "building greater inclusiveness" on Tech’s campus. But if Graves knows of any public university that imposes similar requirements in the name of patriotism, Christianity, or any other matter of individual choice and conscience, he should let us know so that FIRE may fight them with equal vigor.

In addition, Graves presumes that the editorial board’s March 24 editorial somehow relied on FIRE’s March 25 letter. In truth, the board and FIRE independently reached very similar conclusions conclusions that are shared by the National Association of Scholars, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and many others. Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors also has agreed to comprehensive[ly] review Virginia Tech’s tenure and diversity policies.

The "litmus tests" employed by FIRE do not involve political ideology, as Virginia Tech’s requirement [does], but the First Amendment, which protects Graves’ right to criticize us. Graves may be unaware that FIRE has also defended the rights of students and faculty members with an extremely wide variety of views. Another of our biggest cases this month involves the right of adult Maryland students to watch a "XXX" film on campus.

"Diversity," whatever it means, is something that Graves and Virginia Tech are free to value and recognize – but not to the point of imposing such a value against the academic freedom and freedom of conscience of the faculty.

Schools: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University