UC Santa Cruz begins vetting job candidates using only their diversity statements: if yours isn’t up to snuff, you get tossed

UPDATE: At his philosophy website, my Chicago colleague Brian Leiter is tallying all the UC campuses that use diversity statements as a threshold criterion. The tally is up to six schools now.

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On the last day of 2019, I reported on a new way of hiring faculty at the University of California. It has already started on the Berkeley campus, and is poised to begin at both the Santa Cruz and Davis campuses.

The method, as implemented at Berkeley, is to require candidates for faculty jobs—not all of them yet, just those applying to some selected departments in the life sciences—to submit “diversity statements” with their applications. These statements require three features: they must express your philosophy of diversity, they must recount your past efforts to promote diversity, and they must describe your plans to increase diversity at the UC campus where you’re applying.

The invidious aspect of this process at Berkeley is that the diversity statements were vetted by a committee, not the department itself, and they were scored on a scale that goes from 1 (worst) to 5 (best) in each of the three areas. The minimum score, then, is 3, and the maximum 15. In one of the two searches conducted using this method, the minimum score required for a application to even make it to the next round, where the actual academic qualifications of a candidate were assessed, was an average 11 or more from each of two reviewers. In the other search, no cutoff was described, but the statements were used in the same way: to vet all applications, pruning those at the outset that had inadequate diversity statements.

A lame attempt was made in this search—as well as in the search at UC Santa Cruz about to start—to “redact” identifying information. That’s probably because it’s illegal for them to allow statements that specify race or names that might give a clue to race, although, as I wrote, whether a candidate is a member of a minority group will almost certainly be clear from the diversity statement itself:

Statements were evaluated blind to the candidate’s names, getting rid of some clues to sex and race. But these data would have been clear, I suspect, from the diversity statements alone (at least for minorities), so I highly doubt that candidates were evaluated “blind” in this respect.

As always, the “diversity” they’re looking for is diversity of race or gender, though they never really define diversity, which I believe is a deliberate omission.

At any rate, this hiring process was also discussed by John Cochrane on his website The Grumpy Economist; his post was named “Wokeademia.” Both of our posts got picked up by the media, but of course mainly the right-wing media. At least some of them mentioned that I was in favor of affirmative action, which I am. So I’ll reiterate that yes, I favor initiatives to increase faculty diversity given the lack of equal opportunity for many minorities. I just don’t think it’s right to mandate “diversity statements”—and, especially, using them as a way to prune out all candidates who aren’t sufficiently on board with the UC ideology (or have no track record of promoting diversity). That simply eliminates candidates, even minority ones, who have outstanding records but haven’t spent a lot of time promoting diversity. Or who have done other sorts of “outreach” activities not involved with diversity itself.

And so, according to the report below, which comes from UC Santa Cruz itself, that school is instituting a pilot program which resembles Berkeley’s. (Click on screenshot)

Quotes from the report are indented, starting with this one:

Roughly a third of the faculty recruitments in the coming year will put contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront.

It turns out that “at the forefront” means “if your diversity statement isn’t good enough, we won’t look further at your application”.  And the process, described below (and, sadly, conducted in the life sciences), resembles Berkeley’s—except that search committees themselves will vet the diversity statements. However, if your diversity statement isn’t good enough, your application still gets tossed. And there’s another feature: you’re asked (read “required”) to give a talk on how you’ll improve diversity. Note that even now diversity statements are “encouraged” (read: “required”) for every candidate at UCSC.

Emphases are mine:

The campus expects to run about 30 faculty recruitments in the coming year. In the recruitments that are part of the pilot program, search committees will first review and assess candidates’ statements on contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion before determining whether to evaluate the rest of the application materials. The statements will also be redacted to reduce potential impact of implicit bias.

Candidates who do advance will be evaluated on the whole of their application. The UC Santa Cruz program is based on similar successful efforts at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. Searches that are not part of the pilot program will continue to be run under existing campus practices, which includes asking candidates to submit a statement about their contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

. . .The campus is also encouraging search committees to ask candidates to give a talk on contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how they would work to further it at UC Santa Cruz if they were hired.

As part of the grant, the campus will host a workshop in winter quarter on faculty research into best practices for inclusive hiring.

A group of new faculty members will be recruited to launch a new global and community health program, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the divisions of Social Sciences and Physical and Biological Sciences. The faculty in the sciences will focus on parasitic and infectious diseases, the microbiome, structural biology, and stem cells, though all candidates who can contribute to global and community health are encouraged to apply. The faculty members in Social Sciences will focus on social justice and health metrics.

So there you have it. And although this is a pilot program, you know how these things work: the diversity initiatives—which are pushed by recently hired diversity deans and administrators who require ongoing programs to keep their jobs, and whose incentives are to create more programs—constitute a one-way ratchet. Once they’re underway, they don’t go backwards, and later the ratchet clicks forward again.

This is not to say that all diversity programs are useless or harmful: there should be programs in place to address the real needs and problems of minority students, and ways to promote the hiring of minority candidates. But diversity statements should not be part of such programs, nor part of the hiring process for reasons I’ve discussed before.

Here’s a comment from John Cochrane’s post, somewhat tongue in cheek, about the effect that UC diversity-statement requirements are having:

My friends (anonymous!) in the UC system report that the criteria are clear and the word is out: Don’t try to be clever.  Don’t quote Martin Luther King, on judgement by content of character rather than color of skin.  Don’t write vibrant essays on the importance of ideological, political or religious diversity.  Don’t quote federal anti-discrimination law, the 14th Amendment, and the UC’s own statements of non-discrimination in hiring. Don’t write about class diversity, diverse experiences of immigrants, such as people born under communism in Eastern Europe or the amazingly diverse experience of the colleague you just hired who came from a small village in China. Don’t write about the importance of freedom of speech, or  anti-communist loyalty oaths in the 1950s. Are you thinking of writing about your hillbilly elegy background, your time in the military, your support for gun rights and Trump, and how this background and viewpoint would enrich a faculty and staff that likely has absolutely zero people like you? Don’t bother. We all know what “diversity” means. And, heaven forbid, don’t express distaste for the project. The staff are on to all these tricks,  and each of these specifically will earn you a downgrade. For an example of what not to do, see UCLA Professor Stephen Bainbridge’s (UCLA law) posted diversity statement. Let’s see if he gets that raise.

Have a look at Bainbridge’s diversity statement, which is a real in-your-face challenge of these programs. Ten to one he doesn’t get his raise.

31 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I wonder what criteria are used to judge if overall diversity is increasing to an expected value – and therefore, that a special program can be ended, having reached it’s goal? What is the expected value? I also understand such a special program in practice is intended to never end.

    I’m also taking a look at the demographics of the United States : I can see that %”white” is decreasing over the years, to just over 70%. It does not look like a trivial problem – to draw conclusions about these proportions as reported on the census :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States#Race_and_ethnicity

    … so if there’s one group that stands out, it is white – in general.

    • Mike
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that an academic unit that consisted only of the members of one under-represented group (take your pick) would be more “diverse” than any other unit because each of those individuals is “diverse”. This is the new meaning of “diversity”.

      So to your point: the process is intended to reach maximum “diversity”, and so long as a group includes some old white guys it is not as “diverse” as it could be.

      Ok now I’ve worn out my quotation marks key.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    [ … my previous comment isn’t showing up, so I’m putting this here ]

    Here’s an interesting fact from the Wikipedia demographics page : does anyone know which U.S. state – measured in 2015 – has almost 40% “Asian”? Or the second highest (still over 10%)?

    … probably too easy to answer, but : highest : Hawaii 37.7%
    second : California, 13.7%

  4. Roo
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t see good scientists and scholars of any race wanting to jump through all these nonsense hoops. They’ll end up with the program they deserve, unfortunately.

  5. JezGrove
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Professor Stephen Bainbridge’s diversity statement was nicely argued. I didn’t think he’ll be getting that salary increase, though.

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    This is ridiculous. It should be based on something important like toilet paper orientation.

  7. Carey Haug
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I hope there will be a court challenge to this practice. I think it was Jonathan Haidt who said the university must choose its telos, either truth or social justice. Any institution that cares more about a candidate’s diversity activism than their accomplishments won’t be able to attract the best and the brightest.

    • Historian
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Juxtaposing truth to social justice is about as meaningless a comparison that I can think of except that you seem to be implying social justice is something bad. The fight for social justice in this country from its earliest days has been something noble and uplifting. Now, if you had said that certain methods to achieve social justice are questionable, you could have an argument there. But, alas, you didn’t say that. Precision in the use of words is important. You may not really mean what you said. But, intentionally or not, your statement gives aid and comfort to the racists and white supremacists whose greatest fear is that minorities may actually achieve a fair shake in this country.

      • Carey Haug
        Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        You are correct that I didn’t mean to imply that the goals of equal opportunity and social justice are unimportant. Most people, including me take that for granted.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        The fight for social justice in this country from its earliest days has been something noble and uplifting.

        It’s given us, just for starters, the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, and the end of Jim Crow.

        Some seem willing to throw out the social justice baby with the bathwater “warriors.”

        • TJR
          Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          As has been pointed out here before, people are objecting to Social Justice, not social justice. I suspect the first commenter meant the former, but typed the latter.

      • phoffman56
        Posted February 8, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Here’s a possible way of juxtaposing them, I think, which would rid UCal of the worst aspects of the present policy. I do have 44 years experience as a tenured faculty member, and 37 years as a full prof, but it was Canada not U.S., so maybe it’s too different, though I think not.

        Is it not possible to continue with their present regime of requiring an essay, but ignore it as far as hiring goes. I assume it is normally a committee of some earlier tenured plus mostly full profs constituting their hiring committee.

        Now comes the harder part. If they happen to hire someone with below the required score, such a person would have no say in any hiring decisions until and if they were able to clearly demonstrate whatever level of ‘diversity consciousness and action’ is appropriate.

        If the latter disqualification is somehow impossible because of regulations, try to fix the latter.

        You certainly don’t want a situation where a demonstrable complete jerk with regard to non-whites and females has applied to a UCal XXX Physics Dept., and some years earlier he had revolutionized physics say in quantum gravity and had had his theories reasonably tested to seem correct. So we all now think we understand much better what’s going on inside a blackhole, and lots more. But he gets excluded from moving to UCal, because of his assholiness.
        Shockley comes to mind as something of an example, not quite as egregious or as theoretical perhaps, not that he ever faced this situation, AFAIK.

    • Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      I remember that. I believe the dichotomy was called Truth University versus Social Justice University.

  8. Posted February 6, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    This is what happens when you let non-producers get too much control of institutions.

    What do I mean by “non-producers”? In the University setting, it is anyone who is not actively engaged in the pursuit or transmission of knowledge. In short, if you are not teaching students or doing research, we need to understand exactly what you are contributing. Of course, some layer of “back office” work need to exist to keep the place running, but these folks should not be interfering with the fundamental purpose of the University.

    It also seems to be the case that the non-producers tend to be of mediocre talent and will look to justify their existence with needless administrative rules and special projects. That’s how you get things like the diversity statement.

    • Posted February 6, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      This tracks incredibly well to a local school district administration center I know …

    • Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      The non-producers of course are administrators.

  9. John Donohue
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Here’s my diversity statement:
    I never judge in the plural. I judge by the content of each individual’s character. Only. The deepest and most powerful way to achieve “diversity” is to honor the smallest group of all … the individual.

    Will that get me hired?

  10. Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I see little wrong with exploring a candidate’s attitudes re diversity AFTER their academic and professional accomplishments have been thoroughly evaluated. It is entirely possible that a candidate could write a stellar statement and have an abysmal academic record.

  11. Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Professor Bainbridge’s diversity statement is actually quite good, and it should pass favorably for his review. But it won’t.

  12. Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Thus will get them a lot if activist but not as many dedicated scientists who put all their time into their work.

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    One cannot help being reminded of university life in a large Eurasian polity of recent memory, described as follows by Estonica:

    “Universities had to provide four lessons of the so-called ‘red subjects’ each week. In the 1980s the university ideological courses consisted of Communist Party history (3 terms), dialectical and historical materialism, political economy of capitalism and socialism, history of philosophy and scientific communism (each 1 term), in addition to scientific atheism and Marxist ethics. …Students could not graduate from a university without taking one state examination in an ideological subject. It was compulsory to quote the classics of Marxist-Leninism also in course and diploma works in other specialties.”

    Marxist class analysis is still useful, nonetheless, in analyzing social changes. The
    growing power of the priesthood of Diversity/ Equity/Inclusion is obviously due to the spread of a class of mandarins trained for no function other than promoting their ideology in academic and other settings. Anglosphere higher education initiated this feedback loop when it created those departments which do little but train, credential, and set loose the hordes of Diversicrat mandarins.

  14. dd
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Ultimately, could this mean a gradual de-skilling of STEM faculty at Berkeley et alia?

    I keep thinking about how progressive/diverse high-tech companies like Google, Apple and the rest make themselves out to be. And how loudly the expound on that philosophy.

    But examine their actual employee demographics, especially among the most technical jobs, and it’s largely asian and white males.

  15. Raymond Cox
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I can see the argument for affirmative action for admission to undergraduate programs. But after college, graduate school and usually several years as a postdoc, should one still favor minority applicants for faculty positions to compensate for poor high schools or family background?

    • Posted February 6, 2020 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      I think yes. Favoring the hiring of such underrepresented minorities (who still fall into the range of being qualified) means that more members from these groups go into middle- and upper middle class housing, and their kids go to good schools. Meanwhile, these faculty are seen by students, who are then made to understand that they can make it too. I see affirmative action as a net positive.

  16. Posted February 6, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Basically, what this sort of thing is going to do is foster a lot of creative writing.

  17. FlyoverCountry
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    It’s like they want to get Trump re-elected.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Good point. I just spent a few days in FlyoverCountry Northern Indiana, and most Dems simply do not understand why folks there despise the Democrats and love Trump. They speak of drunken Pelosi with the failed plastic surgery, “shitty Schiff” who is a whiner with Grave’s disease, Nadler as “the fat, New York Jew-Boy” and so on. The see any disparagement of Trump as a personal attack on them. Stuff like the UC policy and the Pelosi Gambit of tearing up paper simply energizes Trump’s base and is off-putting to folks on the fence.

      • FlyoverCountry
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        “most Dems simply do not understand why folks there despise the Democrats and love Trump.”

        The Dems are too full of hubris to bother trying to understand, and so they double down. They devolved from a semi-polite “clinging bitterly to bibles/guns” to not-even-disguised contempt 8 years later: “basket of deplorables/irredeemables.” And now the hypocritical “diversity and inclusion” meltdowns on campuses accelerating to trainwreck-speed; one-sidedly crying “racism” on the flimsiest of pretexts, etc. etc. The hubris, contempt, arrogance and conceit is their undoing, and only feeds the Trump Beast.

        • Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Right on. And I should have added racism and classism. In the 1960’s there were virtually no Hispanics or Muslims and precious few blacks in Elkhart County, IN. Now the Hispanic population is over 15% and the schools are around 35%. The number of residents born in another country is around 8%, and the Muslim population is growing in odd areas such as Amish country near Topeka. The white folks despise most Hispanics claiming without a basis that they are taking away jobs when in reality they are doing what the lazy white folks will not do. Of course the Muslims are despised, and many still believe that Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya.

      • FlyoverCountry
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        And of course it doesn’t help the Dem/left case against the pro-Trump rage that the $1.5T and growing student loan bubble has gone so much into administrative bloat, i.e., “diversity” bureaucrats as well as administrators of Title IX proceedings widely regarded as patently unfair to the accused. And they’ll keep refusing to get what all the anger is about (their jobs depend on not getting it), blaming the opposition for being racist & sexist, etc.


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