Harvard University drops diversity statement requirement for tenure-track faculty applicants

The move comes amid criticism that statements test political leanings and challenge academic freedom.

Harvard University drops diversity statement requirement for tenure-track faculty applicants
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences has announced it will no longer require prospective tenure-track faculty members to submit a statement outlining their plans to promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

The decision, announced by Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser on Monday, comes in response to feedback from numerous faculty members who expressed concerns the requirement could be confusing for foreign applicants and was too narrow in scope.

Instead of the diversity statement, finalists for tenure-track positions will now be required to submit two other documents: a service statement focused on their efforts to strengthen academic communities and a teaching and advising statement detailing how they will foster a learning environment that encourages student participation and idea-sharing, the Harvard Crimson reported.

The change also applies to faculty members seeking promotions, who will no longer need to submit DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) statements.

Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences implemented the diversity statement requirement five years ago, but the practice has faced criticism from those who argue the statements are used to test the political leanings of applicants, the Boston Globe reported. Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, who is black, has been a vocal opponent of the requirement, accusing it of asking candidates to support ideological commitments and challenging academic freedom.

"The practice of demanding them ought to be abandoned, both at Harvard and beyond," Kennedy wrote in the Harvard Crimson, adding that the statements discourage conservative applicants.

The decision to drop the diversity statement requirement comes at a time when Harvard has been under fire for its pro-DEI sentiment following the ousting of former President Claudine Gay amid accusations of plagiarism and rising antisemitism under her leadership. The university recently named DEI advocate Vivian Hunt as the new president of the Board of Overseers, a position that allows her to weigh in on the selection of Harvard's next president.

Hunt has previously advocated against treating people "evenly," stating in a 2020 interview that a neutral, meritocratic position "isn't good enough" and that organizations must "proactively stand for an antiracism environment."

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