College Removes Diversity Question from Applications

April 2, 2001

Community College Week

NEWTOWN, Pa. — A suburban Philadelphia community college has withdrawn a question about diversity from its job applications after receiving complaints from a faculty member and an academic-freedom organization.
Trustees at Bucks County Community College voted last month to remove several open-ended questions from its job applications, including a question that asked applicants to describe their “commitment to diversity.”

Matra Kaufmann, a spokeswoman the public, two-year college, said last month that the trustees felt that the question was unnecessary because the college’s mission statement and other documents made clear that diversity was valued by the school.

She said the diversity question and other “open-ended” questions had been removed from the application and that the trustees would “review that over the next few months.”

The move came about three months after the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education asked college officials to stop using the question, which the group likened to loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era.

“We’re very, very happy with the change,” said Thor L. Halvorssen, the foundation’s executive director. “We commend the trustees for doing the right thing.”

A section of the college’s employment application had read: “Please provide a brief statement of your commitment to diversity and how this commitment is demonstrated in your work.”

Myles Kelleher, a longtime sociology professor at Bucks, first complained to school officials about the question in October, then took the issue to FIRE when school officials would not remove the question.

Last month, Bucks president Dr. James Linksz defended the question, saying it was meant to assess whether faculty would continue to keep up with new ideas, such as business professors integrating e-commerce ideas into their lesson plans.

Linksz was unavailable for comment.