Faculty-Packing at Ohio State

The Ohio State University is currently seeking a professor of “Philosophy of Race,” an area of expertise that includes “the epistemological significance of race or racism” and “race in the philosophy of science.” Its Department of Physics seeks a professor whose main focus is “issues relevant to educational equity.” And its Department of Anthropology recently sought an archaeologist whose work emphasizes “decolonization, feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory, and/or Indigenous ontologies.”

These roles reflect a trend across the country, whereby faculty job listings increasingly demand a specialization in such topics as social justice, critical race theory, and intersectionality. Remarkably, Ohio State might be the worst offender in the nation—surpassing even such progressive bastions as the University of California, Berkeley. To add to the university’s 132 diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officers, a striking number of the new faculty job listings at Ohio State read like calls to progressive activism.

Ohio State’s DEI-themed faculty hiring boom started with its now-outgoing president, Kristina M. Johnson, who promised in her first “State of the University” speech to hire scores of new faculty with a focus on race and equity, setting the goal of “100 underrepresented and BIPOC hires in all fields of scholarship.” Out of this goal came the Race, Inclusion and Social Equity (RAISE) initiative, a series of cluster hires that promises to transform Ohio State for years to come. Already, through the RAISE initiative, Ohio State has created 48 faculty jobs that will focus on such themes as “Climate, Race, and Place” and “Racial Equity by Design.”

[Related: “Belling the DIE Cat”]

The RAISE initiative extends to fields that have little connection with DEI. The university is currently seeking three STEM professors—in chemistry, mathematics, and physics—who will “study issues relevant to educational equity.” One cluster hire on the social determinants of health includes roles in medicine, nursing, and engineering. Successful candidates for these jobs must show “a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence” and submit “a brief DEI narrative describing commitment to improving inclusive excellence” and demonstrating how their research focuses on “improving health equity.”

Many of Ohio State’s humanities jobs, meanwhile, now focus exclusively on race. The history department currently lists just two positions: “Contemporary African American History” and “African American History to 1820.” The Department of Comparative Studies lists three: “Indigenous Knowledge,” “Race, Science, and Technology,” and “Race and Health Equity.” The Department of French and Italian is hiring only one professor, an “Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies with a specialization in Black France.”

The university’s indigenous studies cluster hire—which is independent of the RAISE initiative—includes a role in “Indigenous Feminisms,” calling for a professor who will study “gendered and sexualized disparities alongside the dispossessions of settler colonialism” and “the potentials of women- and two-spirit or queer-led innovations in preserving embattled minority and colonized food/health/body/eco cultures.” Another role in the cluster is more novel, “Indigenous Siberian Studies,” a scholar in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures who will “explore questions about indigenous people’s knowledges and cultural practices” related to “race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, im/mobility, health, food, and environment, in imperial/post-imperial, communist/post-communist, or comparative contexts.”

[Related: “Not Just Semantics: Stanford’s ‘Harmful Words’ Problem Is Serious”]

President Johnson’s tenure will be short-lived—in November she announced that she’ll be stepping down this May, after just two years of service—but her policies will still have long-term effects. In just a short time, she has initiated the hiring of dozens of faculty who will function as adjunct DEI officers, which will inevitably shape the university’s research agenda and teaching for years to come.

But Ohio State’s DEI programming is not limited to DEI faculty-packing. In April of last year, the university’s “Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities” released a report with dozens of recommended DEI policies. The report calls for all colleges to create yearly “cultural transformation plans,” for “undergraduate and graduate programs to include DEI topics and approaches in foundational or prerequisite courses for the discipline,” and for instructors to include “questions regarding DEI in Student Evaluations of Instruction.” Some colleges have already started the overhaul. Through its Racial Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, the College of Engineering has eliminated the SAT and ACT math requirements for admissions and added an “equity and inclusion” assessment to its faculty annual reviews.

Of course, Ohio State is not at fault for setting priorities in hiring and curriculum. University policy should be guided by a substantive vision of higher education. Unfortunately, Ohio State has set misguided priorities, favoring political activism above the true purpose of higher education: the pursuit of truth. Let’s hope there’s course correction.

Image: Adobe Stock


  • John Sailer

    John Sailer is a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDSailer.

30 thoughts on “Faculty-Packing at Ohio State

  1. The vastness of this program means there is no turning it around. To most of us outside academia, it all sounds like some bad joke. But these are tens of thousands of professionals handling billions of dollars. That’s not the sort of thing to go away.

    The only way it will end is when the money supply gets cut off. Once these DEI officers are not getting paid for promoting their religious revolution, the tide will ebb. Before that happens, however, the nation’s universities will have committed wholesale extermination of large swaths of western culture.

  2. I’m baffled as to why state governments, especially in alleged “red” or even “purple” states don’t step in to stop these blatantly obvious abuses in state schools. Currently, only Florida appears to be doing so.

  3. tOSU taking money from Children is the hallmark of the American’s educational system and givng it to the radicals who teach them, who went from protesting The Man to being the nonBinary Snake Oil Sales “people”.

    1. Wow. What a deep thinker and expansive writer you are-three full sentences including the new “term” you have penned known as “rascist” (sic)! Oh yeah, I get it, you are a woke loser ruled by your emotions-good luck with that.

  4. It’s misguided and naive to “hope there’s course correction”. It’s going to take full-on rebellion. From the students, from the alumni, from the donors, from regulators, from Congress, and from the Courts. Unless there’s a complete purge of the perpetuators of this nonsense, the best that will happen is that it continues, just more quietly.

  5. Sorry about the formatting of that spiel, something swallowed the para breaks. Trying again –

    The issue is not whether the university should be studying diversity in STEM fields. The question is why is the Physics department hiring a professor to study something that IS NOT PHYSICS. Presumably the hire would not actually be a physicist, as to accept such as job with a PhD in Physics would essentially be an admission that you would rather being doing social science work. What value is gained by having such a professor within the department? They’ll be just as much as an outsider as if they were in whatever social science department would normally study these issues, which I would assume already does. About all this does is allow the hire to publish work as if they were a practicing physicist, which they won’t be by the nature of the job.

    This is just another extension of the modern university’s response to under representation over the past 50 years. It started with the creation of the various “studies” programs as a way to increase representation in the absence of qualified candidates in the hiring pool, if nothing else than because possible candidates had been actively denied opportunities by prior discrimination. Otherwise they would have had to spend a couple of decades actually attracting, training and retaining qualified candidates before you could hope to approach something approaching proportional representation. Of course rapidly creating such programs meant much less competition for those jobs compared to more established fields, did nothing to help the original under representation issue and can be reasonably assumed to have drawn at least some potential candidates away from the existing departments. These programs were of lower prestige within the university, not only because of what they studied but because the circumstances of their creation attracted second rate talent, which happens pretty much any time you create new fields outside of existing ones.

    Having created fields that are regarded by pretty much everyone not actually in them as second tier and filling them with the under represented you now have a situation where those populations are no longer under represented within the university as a whole, but remain under represented in the high prestige departments, particularly STEM, and over represented in the low prestige departments. A DEI hire within the Physics department is just taking this process one level down. You’ll now be able to say you have better representation in your STEM departments, just like the university could claim gains before, but the under represented will continue to be under represented in terms of who does the actual work in the field.

    As to the problem of students floundering, that too stems from this approach. Rather than champion the reforms in primary and secondary education necessary to produce a pool of suitably trained students from under represented groups the universities instituted affirmative action, figuring that they could make up the gaps. I can understand the motivation, as we haven’t made all that much progress there in what is now pushing 70 years. But accepting kids with significantly weaker preparation than the other students they will be in class with is WHY students are floundering. Prop 209 in California proved quite clearly that matching minority students to schools within the U Cal system where they matched the rest of the student body resulted in them performing at the same level as those students. But push the kids who should be at UCLA to Berkeley and so on down the line and they all struggle.

    This doesn’t necessarily matter throughout the university. If you’re going to college as a finishing school and a place to make connections then preferences aren’t that big a deal. That’s the deal for legacies and athletes as well after all, that’s why there were “Gentleman’s C’s”. But if you want to go into a demanding field of study such as STEM preferences are a disaster, and this is why those students abandon STEM majors at a much higher rate than the general student population. They’re simply overwhelmed by finding themselves below the curve in all their required classes from the get go. Forgive me if doubt that institutions that have been promoting policies that have devastated minority performance in STEM for decades will some how be able to fix the issue by bringing advocates of those policies into the departments themselves as professors. This will just bring an advocate inside the department for the dilution of standards already being pushed by administrations more concerned about the composition of their student body than actually educating them to an appropriate professional standard. I’m cynical enough about university administrators that I doubt this is even a good faith effort.

    As for constructive solutions, how ’bout we just stop setting kids up to fail. Admit them to schools they belong in, where they can learn their chosen profession in an environment they can actually succeed in. After the initial job interview nobody cares what school you went to, only whether or not you can do the job. If we’re looking at a shortage of trained STEM workers employers aren’t going to be restricting their searches to MIT. And for those kids who just can’t hack college, stop pushing them to go there. We’re facing a crisis in the trades every bit as bad whatever skills gap you are worried about with colleges. Let them learn a trade or skill they can master, and they’ll be a lot better off than wasting time and money in pursuit of a paper credential. This isn’t just about the under represented either. We have a bloated university system feeding on student loans providing minimal education and a paper credential at great cost. Just stop.

  6. The sad part is that students will incur massive debt to pay for the useless DEI programs. The academic parasites must be fed.

    1. Edward, the fact is, useless or not, the DEI programs are generally a fraction of a percent of the total budget of a large university. Look at the outcomes of the inquiry carried out by DeSantis in Florida. Or look at any of many other cases that have been in the news.

      1. Thinking of new pronouns to keep the fraud going. Today’s religion is very amorphous, and purposefully so.

    2. Not just the students — I don’t think people really realize just how much of their state and federal tax dollars are going to these institutions.

      And this includes taxes not charged — just think what a property tax on their real estate and a capital gains tax on their endowments would bring in…

  7. What is the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature doing to check this at its state-controlled intuitions of higher learning?

    1. Keep dreaming, but I kinda doubt it. Enrollments seem to be recovering, at least for now. The local state U where I live has welcomed its larges ever first-year classes the past two years.

      1. The largest public university in my state had a dramatic decrease in enrollments (7%) last year. The provost says things won’t be improving for the next 5 years.

        You’re forgetting demographics. There are fewer 18 year olds in the pipeline. Parents burdened with student loan debt, and a degree that never translated into high income employment, are not going to encourage their children to attend college. States like Pennsylvania and some companies no longer require a degree for the employment.

        The bloom is off the rose. A college education no longer has the prestige it once did.

      2. And what is the average age of the cohort?

        How many decided not to go to college during the past 2 years?

        Well they are only going to start college once — and then the babies not born in 2008 won’t be starting college in 2026…

  8. ‘The RAISE initiative extends to fields that have little connection with DEI. The university is currently seeking three STEM professors—in chemistry, mathematics, and physics—who will “study issues relevant to educational equity.” ‘

    It’s really not true that there is no connection of these STEM fields with DEI. The fact is that whites/Asians perform distinctly better in these fields than do the other groups (i.e. black, Hispanic, native). It really is painful to see the underperforming groups up close, i.e. see them flounder. And this really is a problem for the colleges and universities — behind the DEI screen, they are very worried about maintaining enrollments of capable students in the face of declining enrollments, with the “demographic cliff” coming in a couple of years, and the increasing prevalence of minority groups in the college-age cohort (white failure to reproduce). And there is a real “national” problem here too — what kind of a country are we going to have if we don’t do something about all this? If you are a MAGA type, you should be worried!

    In other words, they are trying to something about a real problem — for the students, for the colleges, and for society.

    At least they are trying to do something positive — I don’t see that organizations like NAS even recognize that there is something that needs somehow to be attended to.

    I dislike the DEI stuff as much as just about anybody — but I don’t see much of anything positive in the response of people who oppose it.

    1. Because when it comes to science and engineering, I could care less what color you are or what your sex is or even what you may think your sex is. I want competence, and the sad truth is, white and Asian, to include Chinese, Japanese/Koreans, and Indian males, do better than women and the other minorities in competence. Since I occasionally cross bridges or travel below a dam, that is all I care about. Competence. Math is cold, hard and cruel, and does not care about feelings. And it has right answers and wrong answers.

      1. I’ve had a lot of exposure to Chinese students. I’ve taught STEM classes (undergraduate) in China for several years. From my observations the Chinese students are not all that much different than American students. Some are very good but that’s only a small fraction of them; most are just average. The Chinese students who do the best are not those here on student visas but those who permanently immigrated to the U.S. as children. As far as Indian males (at least at the graduate level) it depends on where in India they got their undergraduate degree. There is a huge variance in math skills.

    2. Just how do these DEI courses solve any issues? By dividing ppl, rehashing the past, & old wounds to make more ppl angry? Did they think no one knew racism & biases still exists? IT won’t be solved by trying to assign blame to each “other” & competition over who is more victimized, wronged, offended. The new diversity is you are only included if you agree with only my beliefs & that is on both sides of the extremes.

      1. I was talking about STEM departments in my post. Perhaps the STEM professors have some ideas. In fact, I know some of them do. You might not like all their ideas. So try to come up with better solutions, if you can. Otherwise you’re left with all the problems for the students, the colleges, and society. If we don’t figure out a way to do something, we’re going to become a second rate country. We’re already well on the way.

    3. Never turns out the way you “ feel “ it should. Best candidates. Best results.
      Stop propping up “ groups” that someone “ feels “ need propping up.

  9. “Let’s hope there’s course correction”? How about naming the politicians responsible for allowing the college trustees to pursue such a course, and recruiting primary challengers?

    1. It takes a brave politician to root this sort of thing out. So far the only one I’ve seen is Ron DeSantis.

      1. Florida was doing things with ed reform before DeSantis — he’s definitely helped (and would make a lovely ED Secretary) but he’s building on a base that’s existed for a decade or more now.

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