Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for February 9th, 2023

Iced lichens

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During last week’s freeze, iced-over lichens attracted me.
I had access to these formerly high branches after the weight
of accumulated ice caused a mature tree to come crashing down.



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Article VI of the United States Constitution specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” I take it you agree that that prohibition of religious tests is a good thing.

Those who take the long view of history know that all good things eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, American institutions are increasingly imposing religious tests on applicants. Yes, you read that right. The only difference between 1787, when the Constitution was written, and 2023 is that today’s tests involve a secular rather than a theistic religion. The modern secular religion in question is DEI. That happens to be the Latin word for ‘gods,’ and it stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

In the United States we have the Freedom of Information Act, which allows citizens access to many government records. The government does what it does on behalf of its citizens, so we the citizens have the right to know what the government is doing.

John D. Sailer, a fellow at the National Association of Scholars, used the Freedom of Information Act to get records from Texas Tech University, located in the north Texas city of Lubbock. In particular, Sailer acquired the evaluations of more than a dozen job candidates for a position in the department of biological sciences.

One Texas Tech search committee penalized a candidate for espousing race-neutrality in teaching. The candidate “mentioned that DEI is not an issue because he respects his students and treats them equally,” the evaluation notes. “This indicates a lack of understanding of equity and inclusion issues.”

Another search committee flagged a candidate for failing to properly understand “the difference between equity and equality, even on re-direct,” noting that this suggests a “rather superficial understanding of DEI more generally.” This distinction arises frequently in DEI training, always as a markedly ideological talking point. According to the schema, equality means equal opportunity, but, to use the words of Vice President Kamala Harris, “Equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place.” Somehow, failing to explain that distinction reflects poorly on a biologist.

The biology department’s search committees also rewarded fluency in the language of identity politics. An immunology candidate was praised for awareness of the problems of “unconscious bias.” “Inclusivity in lab” was listed as a virology candidate’s strength: “her theme will be diversity, and she will actively work to creating the culture—e.g. enforce code of conduct, prevent microaggressions etc.” Another candidate’s strengths included “Land acknowledgement in talk.”

Many critics rightly point out that diversity statements invite viewpoint discrimination. DEI connotes a set of highly contestable social and political views. Requiring faculty to catalog their commitment to those views necessarily blackballs anybody who dissents from an orthodoxy that has nothing to do with scientific competence.

Amen to that. You’re welcome to read the full article, “How ‘Diversity’ Policing Fails Science,” from the February 6th Wall Street Journal. You can also read a related January 16th story by John D. Sailer in City Journal, “DEI in the Heart of Texas.”


UPDATE: I prepared the above commentary two days ago. Yesterday the National Association of Scholars sent out an announcement that begins this way:

New York, NY; February 8, 2023 – The National Association of Scholars (NAS) applauds the speed with which Texas Tech University jettisoned its requirement that candidates for faculty positions submit “diversity statements.” This decision came just hours after NAS senior fellow John Sailer published “How ‘Diversity’ Policing Fails Science” in the Wall Street Journal on February 7, in which he detailed how the Texas Tech Department of Biological Sciences used these statements. Texas Tech notes in its announcement that it has “immediately withdr[awn] this practice” and related “evaluation rubrics.” The university also declared that it would initiate “a review of hiring procedures across all colleges and departments.”

This is a breakthrough in the larger battle against higher education’s attempt to impose diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards on faculty hiring, along with every other aspect of college and university life. Sailer used a freedom of information request to obtain the public university search committee’s evaluations of candidates. This is the first time that the public has been able to see how DEI standards affect applicants.

You’re welcome to read the full announcement.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2023 at 4:27 AM

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