Documents: Mizzou Imposes DEI Litmus Test

Earlier this month, I published an article in the Wall Street Journal exposing how Texas Tech University’s Department of Biological Sciences evaluated job candidates’ contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The department’s evaluations—which I uncovered through a public records request—showed how candidates were penalized for failing to adopt the language of contemporary identity politics. To its credit, the university quickly responded by saying it would stop requiring diversity statements and conduct a review of its hiring practices. Although that decision led to some grumbling from DEI advocates, no one has come forward to give a real defense of how the biology department evaluated its job candidates. 

Through another records request, I have uncovered documents showing how the University of Missouri (Mizzou) has implemented the same policy.

As it turns out, Mizzou routinely uses and encourages diversity statements for faculty hiring. Its 2017 Inclusive Excellence Plan, for example, notes that the College of Arts and Science planned to expand its “use of required diversity statements,” and that the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources planned to require them for “all faculty applications.” The university training on “Best Practice for Inclusive Excellence in Faculty Hiring” encourages hiring committees to assess job candidates’ contributions to DEI using a pre-established rubric. 

[Related: “An Open Letter to Texas Governor Abbott on Illegal DEI Practices: Where’s the Beef?”]

On its “Diversity Initiatives” webpage, Mizzou’s Division of Biological Sciences notes that it, too, requires candidates to “submit a statement addressing their past and/or proposed future contributions to inclusion and equity.” The department weighs these contributions heavily, noting that “our hiring practices use a ‘blinded’ review in the early stages to reduce unintentional bias with equal weighting of the research, teaching, and inclusion and equity statements” (emphasis mine). For some reason, biology departments across the country seem especially eager to value DEI on par with basic academic ability. 

I have obtained Mizzou’s “Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (IDE) Evaluation Tool.” This rubric—which readers can examine for themselves below—demonstrates, once again, the basic issue with the practice of mandatory diversity statements.

The Mizzou rubric shows that DEI evaluations invite viewpoint discrimination. It dictates a low score for candidates who say “that it’s better not to have affinity groups aimed at underrepresented individuals because it keeps them separate from everyone else.” “Affinity groups” refer to groups separated by race or other demographic characteristics—a practice that has grown more popular in recent years as institutions have embraced explicitly “race-conscious” policies. The practice has been widely criticized for obvious reasons. It is a prime example of what some have called “neo-segregation.” But for Mizzou, voicing that objection could derail a scholar’s job prospects.

[Related: “Research, Teaching, and DEI”]

The rubric also requires faculty to embrace DEI as core values. It dictates a low score for candidates who appear to be insufficiently enthusiastic, whether through “[discussing] diversity in vague terms” or “expect[ing] the university or IDE to invite or assign them to activities.” High-scoring activities, meanwhile, include organizing or speaking “at multiple workshops or other events aimed at increasing others’ understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion as one aspect of their track record” and “Intend[ing] to be a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion within the department/school/college and also their field.”

Though it might sound innocuous, the phrase “diversity, equity, and inclusion” does not merely connote a set of neutral and uncontroversial values. In practice, it implies a set of controversial views about race, gender, racism, and social justice. Again and again, this fact is demonstrated by higher education DEI initiatives. By now, it should be obvious that diversity statements will inevitably function as ideological litmus tests—and huge failures of priority. Unfortunately, they’re alive and well at the University of Missouri.

To download and view the University of Missouri’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (IDE) Evaluation Tool, click here.

Editor’s Note, February 23, 2023: Shortly after this article was published, the president of the University of Missouri issued a response, stating in part that the university’s IDE evaluation tool “does not define diversity as only one or two factors of a person’s background. In fact, that rubric specifically states that a candidate’s understanding of diversity ‘can result from personal experiences as well as an investment in learning about the experiences of those with identities different from their own.'” (Read the full statement here.)

This response ignores the main issues raised in the article, and the core problem with diversity statement policies more broadly. Put simply, these policies almost inevitably lead to viewpoint discrimination, and the Mizzou rubric illustrates how. Again, the rubric goes so far as to penalize candidates who express skepticism about “affinity groups,” a skepticism that is shared by many on principled grounds. More broadly, given the ideological connotations of the terms “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” any assessment of job candidates’ commitment to the cause will almost by definition turn into an ideological test. This is why organizations like the National Association of Scholars, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and the Academic Freedom Alliance have called for an end to the use of diversity statements. If Mizzou, as its president states, is “always reviewing [its] policies,” it should heed the words of these organizations.

Image: Adobe Stock


7 thoughts on “Documents: Mizzou Imposes DEI Litmus Test

  1. In Missouri the governor is Republican, the house and senate have lopsided Republican majorities. If this DEI stuff bothers them, they need to wake up and do something about it.

    It’s pretty hard to see how to argue against “diversity, equity, inclusion.” Who could be against any of those things? It behooves opponents of current DEI to come up with a positive, alternative program. I see next to no evidence of that so far.

    1. I am opposed to DEI.

      As I see it, diversity adds nothing to a business. Sorry, but there isn’t a female perspective on designing software for embedded systems. Nobody claims being black and growing up in an inner city makes one more skilled at driving an 18-wheeler, or a better electrician or more adept at teaching linear algebra. I’m not aware of anyone who says hispanics make better dental assistants. So, considering diversity—normally interpreted as diverse in race or sex—in hiring provides no tangible benefits. I can’t think of a single job where skin color makes someone more (or less) qualified to do the work.

      You are asking the wrong question regarding DEI. The question is who could be for any of those things? Bear in mind DEI is nothing more than a renaming of affirmative action. Its purpose is to hire people with mediocre qualifications for positions they would, under a pure merit based system, never be seriously considered for. Who benefits from this (other than the person hired under a DEI policy)?

      Finally, why is in important to come up with a positive, alternative program? I think that is completely unnecessary. How about this: just hire the best qualified. I will never again fly United Airlines again because they recently announced 50% of all future pilots will comply with DEI principles. Sorry, but my life means too much to me. I have no intention of seeing it sacrificed on the altar of wokeness.

    2. I think Traditional Civics is the best counter balance to unite behind, as it harbors the collective complementary concepts at play that are not going anywhere: common humanity, merit, equality, equal opportunity, individual justice, etc.

    3. The issue is not whether “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (however defined) are desirable. It is whether an institution of higher education should demand commitment to a social and political agenda as a requirement for employment.

      I think Patti effectively answers your question “who could be against any of those things?” You can certainly disagree with all of her points, but you cannot reasonably say that anyone who takes her view (right or wrong) should be excluded from a faculty. That would not be very inclusive, would it?

      1. Why put words in my mouth?

        But anyway, you don’t seem to get it. The country and the universities both have a terrible problem — more and more of the population, of all races, is falling behind and failing. It’s a problem for the universities because they are soon not going to have enough decent students. It’s a problem for the country because we are becoming a nation of incompetents.

        Now, you can say “to hell with these people, just let them fail, they deserve it and it’s their own damn fault. And screw diversity, equity, and inclusion while we’re at it.”

        Or, you can say, with Glenn Loury perhaps, “but these are out people, they are us, we have to have some empathy.”

        The first path, I am convinced, is a loser. The second may or may not work. Or, you can keep losing to the DEI people, because you have nothing to offer.

      2. Jonathan, Why put words in MY mouth? Empathy is a good thing. But you can’t equate having empathy with being required to submit a statement of commitment to DEI. I support your right to believe in some version of DEI. I also support the right of others to think differently and say so..

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