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MIT stops using DEI statements in faculty hiring

Other universities should follow suit.
Aerial shot of MIT's campus next to image of MIT President Sally Kornbluth


Hats off to Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth for taking an important step to protect intellectual diversity at MIT despite the school’s spotty track record on free speech. 

The university will no longer require diversity, equity, and inclusion statements from faculty — allowing candidates to teach and research without needing to pass an ideological litmus test just to get their foot in the door. Other university leaders should follow suit to avoid compelling faculty adherence to specific political viewpoints and compromising both academic freedom and free speech on campus. 

Graphic w/ Clipboard

FIRE releases statement on the use of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ criteria in faculty hiring and evaluation

Proponents of mandatory DEI statements argue that such statements are a vital measure to ensure that the university is a welcoming environment for all students and faculty. But FIRE has repeatedly pointed out that mandatory statements serve as ideological litmus tests and weed out potential faculty members based on criteria unrelated to their academic work. For instance, a forthcoming study from FIRE demonstrates that colleges penalize faculty and prospective faculty whose statements focus on rural diversity, socioeconomic diversity, or intellectual diversity rather than race, ethnicity, or gender. 

MIT is taking a bold step by abolishing these mandatory statements. True to its mission, the university chose to prioritize “generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge” above any singular ideology. When a university shares a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, it gives faculty the latitude they need to investigate difficult subjects and take risks. This allows scholars to do their jobs, conducting the best research and teaching possible. 

This success at MIT followed a phenomenal effort by faculty on the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression, alumni of the MIT Free Speech Alliance, and MIT Students for Open Inquiry. Each organization encouraged the administration to tackle speech issues on campus, and they’ve started to see improvements for free speech and academic freedom at MIT — but it didn’t start this way.

MIT is taking a bold step by abolishing these mandatory statements. True to its mission, the university chose to prioritize “generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge” above any singular ideology. 

The movement to reform MIT’s policies began with a speaker disinvitation that caused many at MIT to reevaluate its free speech policies and the campus culture. To the credit of those who found this concerning, they took action. The Ad Hoc Committee drafted a statement on free expression. Alumni networked and began hosting debates on issues like race and gender to open up conversations on difficult topics within the campus community. Their success is a testament to the idea that universities can change, especially when their community is dedicated to promoting a free speech culture.

To combat the issue of ideological rubrics and mandatory DEI statements as screening tools on campus, universities nationwide need changemakers to get involved and help make the kind of improvements we’re seeing at MIT. 

Often compared to “loyalty oaths” from decades past, which required employees to swear they were “not a member of the Communist Party,” some universities like the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, employ blatantly ideological rubrics that penalize applicants for voicing beliefs that go against the university’s prescribed DEI position. Beliefs like “it’s better not to have outreach or affinity groups aimed at underrepresented individuals because it keeps them separate from everyone else, or will make them feel less valued” suffer from this type of viewpoint discrimination. These rubrics likely violate the First Amendment and discourage conversation about controversial issues. 

What’s more, they can cripple a university’s ability to find the best and brightest for faculty positions. According to a self-survey conducted by UC Berkeley, 76% of applicants for a position in the life sciences department were eliminated solely due to their DEI statements. This means the overwhelming majority of candidates were not considered for their academic or instructional qualifications. Instead, the university eliminated them for failing to conform. This is hardly a recipe for scientific progress. 

MIT made the right call by abolishing mandatory DEI statements, and there’s no reason for this victory for free expression to remain isolated. When faculty, alumni, and students band together, real reform is possible. 

Colleges and universities nationwide should follow MIT’s lead by ceasing the use of mandatory DEI statements for faculty hiring and let faculty debate ideas and research broadly without intimidation. 

Those who want to carry the torch on their own campus can start by reviewing FIRE’s 10 common-sense reforms for colleges and universities: These straightforward recommendations can help anyone improve the speech climate of any university. For more detailed information on changing the free speech climate at your college or university, reach out to

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