Litmus Tests for Nuclear Scientists

Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Engineering heavily emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). For faculty, contributing to DEI is now simply a part of the job—in 2020, the college added questions about DEI to its annual reviews. That move is no surprise, as the college already asked for diversity statements from many of its prospective faculty, a practice which, of course, continues to this day. Applicants for a currently-open job in nuclear engineering, for example, must submit “a written statement that describes [their] commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The OSU College of Engineering makes its approach to evaluating diversity statements abundantly clear, listing a rubric for assessing the statements on its website. The rubric illustrates, once again, the basic problem with diversity statements—namely, that they invite ideological screening.

We link the rubric below, but certain features are worth highlighting. Here are a few items that can earn a low score, according to the rubric:

• Limited indication of efforts to educate self about diversity topics in higher education. Vaguely describes the importance of diversity.

• Limited awareness or understanding of historical and systemic challenges underrepresented individuals in higher education face and the factors influencing underrepresentation of particular groups in academia.

• Description of [DEI] efforts are brief or vague. May share efforts in their prior organization but does not share personal efforts.

• May have attended a workshop or read books, but does not demonstrate how they applied what they learned to enhance a welcoming climate for all.

• May have participated peripherally in efforts promoting equity diversity, equity and inclusion. Shows enthusiasm but limited knowledge/demonstrated prior actions.

Currently, the college requires diversity statements for roles in architecture, computer engineering, and, again, nuclear engineering. Understandably, most people would prefer that the nuclear engineers at our flagship state universities be selected for, well, their competence as nuclear engineers and their ability to teach the subject. Yet, according to the rubric on the college’s own website, candidates for the role could be penalized if they show limited efforts to learn about DEI in higher education, or if they have made past efforts to promote DEI but describe those efforts using vague language.

[Related: “Faculty-Packing at Ohio State”]

And, of course, given the connotations of the term “DEI,” these evaluations will almost inevitably veer into ideological territory.

Meanwhile, here’s one illustrative item that earns a high score:

• Sophisticated understanding of differences stemming from ethnic, socioeconomic, racial, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and cultural backgrounds and the obstacles people from these backgrounds face in higher education. Deeply believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion is important, demonstrates humility and commitment to continued growth.

The rubric does not elaborate on what constitutes a “sophisticated” understanding of demographic identity, or what “humility and commitment to continued growth” might look like. It leaves that judgment up to individual search committees—which face pressure to emphasize DEI throughout the hiring process. In its Action Plan for Racial Equity and Inclusion, the College of Engineering promises to require each search committee to have a “diversity advocate,” whose role is to bring up issues of DEI throughout the search process. Likewise, the plan notes that “Prior to being able to interview candidates, search committees must report the steps they have taken to create an inclusive pool and their hiring pool must be assessed for appropriate diversity.”

This heavy emphasis on DEI is the norm throughout OSU. As I explained last month, the university’s RAISE Initiative is one of the most far-reaching cluster hiring programs in the country, and it is aimed exclusively at hiring faculty with expertise in DEI. Given this institution-wide emphasis, we shouldn’t expect course correction to come from within OSU. Lawmakers should take note and take action.

To download and view the Ohio State University’s “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Interview Questions and Rubrics,” click here.

Image: Adobe Stock


6 thoughts on “Litmus Tests for Nuclear Scientists

  1. In Ohio, the governor is a Republican, and both houses of the legislature are strongly Republican. It should be eminently feasible to do something about Ohio State, if those politicians are interested. Will they take action, and then follow through? I wouldn’t hold my breath too long.

    1. Not sure what your point is. Are you suggesting if both houses of the legislature were strongly democrat and if the governor was a democrat then this issue would be urgently addressed head on? Is there any evidence to support that?

      1. What Jonathan means requires a few steps of reasoning that he thought would be self-evident. But clearly, the steps need to be spelt out for some readers. So here it is, broken down into easier bite-size steps that might help your comprehension:

        1) Republican politicians would likely consider it unacceptable that OSU now hires nuclear scientists not on grounds of competency in nuclear science but on demonstrated political activism in support of progressive ideological dogmas.
        2) That might lead Republican politicians to object to the OSU’s policy.
        3) Those Republican politicians who are in a position to legislatively counter OSU’s policy would, one would think, be motivated to do so.
        4) But Jonathan questions the strength of their motivation, and thinks they are likely to do nothing.

        So I hope that helps clear up the some of hurdles to comprehension presented here.

    2. Jonathan:

      I share your sentiments. But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

      In Texas, NAS has been warning for years about the disasters that various DEI initiatives in higher education would cause. I and many other folks have tried to get the Texas GOP (and especially Gov. Abbott) to pay attention and do something about this . . . to no avail. But in the past few months, as more and more GOP politicians realize that the public really, really doesn’t like things like the ideological litmus tests that DEI initiatives inherently create, things are starting to change.

      John Sailer’s report on the use of diversity statements as ideological hiring filters at Texas Tech (published in the WSJ) hit like a thunderbolt. Immediately, the school president and other officials disavowed the activity. The Texas Tech chancellor got absolutely roasted over it at a state senate finance committee meeting, in which he also tried to disavow such activities and promised to take corrective action. It prompted Gov. Abbott’s chief of staff (but not Abbott himself) to issue a statement “reminding” all state employees that hiring based on anything but merit was illegal (first time Abbott’s office has done anything on this issue). Even the liberal Dallas Morning News ran an editorial that admitted that the use of DEI statements as litmus tests in hiring was wrong (although they tried to argue that such were not what DEI was about).

      In response, recently UT, Texas A&M, UH, and other state schools have now either paused or banned certain DEI programs (especially the use of diversity statements). Of course, the university diversicrats are already openly discussing how they will circumvent these bans.

      The Texas legislature is now considering a number of bills that will ban / defund certain DEI activities in state schools, and I know of much more comprehensive “anti-woke” legislation is in the works. We’ll see whether anything comes through, but my money is that we’ll see at least funding bans and prohibitions on requiring / utilizing diversity statements in admissions / hiring / promotion / tenure / etc. decisions at state schools.

      Ohio could do this too. What’s needed is for an up and coming GOP politician to make this their issue. Who knows, maybe if this report by John gets picked up in the Ohio press, we might see something similar in Ohio.

      1. I am in favor of much that is happening in Texas and Florida, and also horrified at much of it. Banning the DEI statements, banning group preferences — terrific!

        As for Ohio — something about how I imagine it, makes me doubtful that the local politicians will pick this up and run with it. Maybe if enough red states head in this direction, then places like Ohio will follow suit. Maybe even some purple states, maybe even blue! We can hope.

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