FIRE is concerned by the proliferation of college and university policies requiring faculty applicants or current faculty to demonstrate their commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” often through a written statement that factors into hiring, reappointment, evaluation, promotion, or tenure decisions. In our newly released Q&A and full Statement on the Use of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Criteria in Faculty Hiring and Evaluation, we explain how DEI statement policies can too easily function as ideological litmus tests that threaten employment or advancement opportunities for faculty who dissent from prevailing thought on DEI.
Over the past few years, FIRE has heard from countless faculty members concerned that their university’s DEI statement policy violates the First Amendment, academic freedom principles, or both. Numerous complaints have prompted FIRE’s intervention.
Our statement provides guidance to universities to ensure they respect faculty members’ expressive freedom when seeking to advance DEI.
FIRE recognizes that universities generally may pursue DEI-related initiatives, but at institutions bound by the First Amendment or their own promises of expressive freedom, those efforts must not threaten free speech or academic freedom. Our statement explains that the ideals of free speech and of diversity and inclusivity are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, the latter depends on the former: “When universities uphold expressive freedom, they allow a diversity of voices and perspectives to flourish and create space for dialogue across lines of identity and ideology.”
FIRE will continue to strongly oppose the use of DEI statement policies that restrict faculty members’ freedom of expression or academic freedom.
Of course, institutions of higher education have both the authority and obligation to prevent unlawful discrimination on campus, as well as an interest in employing faculty who work toward the academic success of students of various backgrounds and identities. But DEI policies frequently go further, compelling faculty to affirm contested views on matters of public debate or to embed specific ideological perspectives in their academic activities. This violates faculty members’ individual rights and thwarts values like intellectual freedom, epistemic humility, and open-mindedness that underlie a university’s mission to produce and disseminate knowledge.
As our statement explains, these policies are especially concerning given that “adverse consequences for those who hold or voice dissenting, minority, or simply unpopular opinions are increasingly common on campus.” The last thing universities need is another tool for enforcing ideological conformity, this time in the form of politicized DEI statement policies.
FIRE will continue to strongly oppose the use of DEI statement policies that restrict faculty members’ freedom of expression or academic freedom. We stand ready to help faculty whose rights are in jeopardy.
FIRE defends the rights of students and faculty members — no matter their views — at public and private universities and colleges in the United States. If you are a student or a faculty member facing investigation or punishment for your speech, submit your case to FIRE today. If you’re faculty member at a public college or university, call the Faculty Legal Defense Fund 24-hour hotline at 254-500-FLDF (3533).