In ‘Collegiate Times,’ Adam Calls for Protection of Freedom of Conscience for Virginia Tech Faculty

By on October 15, 2009

Today in The Collegiate Times, a Virginia Tech student newspaper, an op-ed by FIRE’s Adam Kissel calls on Virginia Tech to rid itself of requirements tying faculty promotion and tenure to involvement in "diversity-related activities." Adam’s op-ed echoes the 15-page letter (with thirteen enclosures) FIRE sent to Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors last month, warning that such requirements have crept deeper into the university’s mission in recent years, both in public statements and in official policies.

As Adam writes in the Times, and as FIRE has said numerous times over the past several months (including in a previous letter to this publication):

Although requiring candidates to demonstrate "involvement in diversity initiatives" may seem admirable and innocuous, in practice this requirement amounts to an ideological loyalty oath to an abstract concept - "diversity" - that can represent vastly different things to different people. This flexibility might seem to be a virtue until professors realize that they are to be judged on the quality of their commitment to such an abstract concept, and that their peers and the public might discount the quality of their work, knowing that their work may have been distorted by the university’s official agenda.

He continues:

Moreover, since 2008 the Diversity Committee of the College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences has invested the term "diversity" with a specific, ideological meaning that binds the academic freedom and conscience of faculty members, "acknowledging and respecting that socially constructed differences based on certain characteristics exist within systems of power that create and sustain inequality, hierarchy, and privilege. (CLAHS) is determined to eliminate these forms of inequality, hierarchy, and privilege in our programs and practices. In this sense, diversity is to be actively advanced …"

"The value we place upon equity obliges us to challenge systems of oppression and privilege. … Service is not just a path we choose but a perspective we consciously adopt."

Adam argues that these requirements have no place at a public institution of higher learning. Adam asks that Virginia Tech clarify that these diversity-related goals are only aspirational and will not be used to interfere with the academic work of its faculty or negatively affect their prospects for advancement at Virginia Tech.

Read the full editorial here.