Washington State University: Use of Dispositions Theory to Enforce Ideological Orthodoxy

Category: Freedom of Conscience
Schools: Washington State University

Washington State University (WSU) repealed partisan evaluative criteria used to punish a student whose views on diversity and gun control differed with those of other professors at WSU. Student Ed Swan had received poor evaluative teaching marks on his “dispositions” criteria, which had “required students to have a commitment to vague ideological concepts such as “appreciat[ing] and valu[ing] human diversity,” sensitivity to “community and cultural norms,” and respecting “others’ varied talents and perspectives.” Swan was penalized for admitting that he opposes gun control and does not believe that white privilege and male privilege exist, and was forced to sign a contract submitting him to more ideological litmus tests. FIRE intervened on behalf of Swan so he could have a clear a path to graduation, first convincing WSU to not use “dispositions” in an unconstitutional manner; WSU eventually revamped the dispositions evaluation forms that contained the unconstitutional requirements.