Former Harvard Med School Dean: Mandatory Diversity Statements for Faculty Must Go

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier argued this week that mandatory diversity statements for faculty are a violation of academic freedom.

Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, condemned a new UCLA policy that requires all new faculty members to sign onto an “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” statement.

“As a dean of a major academic institution, I could not have said this,” Flier began. “But I will now. Requiring such statements in applications for appointments and promotions is an affront to academic freedom, and diminishes the true value of diversity, equity of inclusion by trivializing it.”


Flier’s tweet immediately sparked a backlash. “Well congrats you’ve got the tiki torch boys all reved up,” one user wrote. “But I’ll bite, how does a statement describing ones efforts towards diversity affect academic freedom? I also had to make statements about my teaching philosophy and research approach for tenure and my freedom survived.”

Other users agreed with Flier. “The problem is that the term diversity is loaded. In its current meaning the (sic) is no diversity of viewpoint allowed and the ideology divides not unites people by splitting on race, sex and sexuality. That is the problem,” the user wrote.

UCLA is not the first school to introduce a mandatory diversity statement signature for tenure-track employees. In fact, the practice has become relatively common at universities all around the country.

The problem with these statements is not that they establish a commitment to cultivating a diverse campus community. The actual issue is that universities are often asking professors to endorse, either directly or indirectly, very specific policies and practices including affirmative action and massive multi-million dollar budgets for campus diversity offices. One can support the core goal of cultivating a diverse campus without supporting an overreaching administration that designs the faculty and student body based on their subjective interpretation of what diversity looks like.

Flier and others are not wrong to worry that mandatory diversity statements imply that all faculty members are forced to support the latter. And that is definitely a concerning violation of intellectual freedom.