Harvard University Drops Diversity Statement Requirement for Faculty Hiring

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will no longer require job applicants to submit diversity and inclusion statements as part of its hiring process. The change, outlined in an email from Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser, as seen by The New York Times, comes amidst intense scrutiny of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at Harvard and other major universities nationwide.

Instead of the previously required diversity statement, job applicants will now be asked to describe their plans to “strengthen academic communities” and foster a learning environment that encourages student participation. 

The decision, according to Zipser’s email, was influenced by feedback from faculty members who felt that the diversity statements were too narrow and relied on terms that were difficult for some candidates to interpret, especially those from international backgrounds.

Harvard’s FAS, which encompasses undergraduate and Ph.D. programs across 40 academic departments, said that the updated approach acknowledges the various ways in which faculty contribute to strengthening their academic communities, including efforts to increase diversity, inclusion, and belonging. 

The division emphasized that the change aligns with its long-held criteria for faculty hiring, which include excellence in research, teaching, advising, and service.

The removal of the diversity statement requirement comes during a shaky time for the university. Like many of the country’s top institutions, Harvard has faced protests related to the Israel-Hamas war that led to a walkout during commencement over the barring of pro-Palestinian student activists. The university also saw the resignation of its first Black president, Claudine Gay, following plagiarism accusations and controversial remarks about antisemitism on college campuses.

Critics of DEI efforts, such as billionaire investor Bill Ackman, have argued that shrinking the candidate pool based on race, gender, or sexual orientation criteria is not the right approach to identifying the best leaders for prestigious universities. Supporters of Gay, however, have defended her qualifications and called out the backlash against her as racist.

The change in Harvard’s hiring process follows similar moves by other institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University, on the other hand, have recently backtracked on plans to require diversity courses for incoming students. 

Information for this story was found via the New York Times, CNN, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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