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Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Will No Longer Require Diversity Statements | News |


Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will stop requiring a diversity, inclusion, and belonging statement as part of its faculty hiring process, Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser announced in a Monday morning email.

Zipser wrote that she and FAS Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra “made this change in response to feedback from numerous faculty members” who expressed concern that existing requirements were “too narrow in the information they attempted to gather” and potentially confusing for international candidates.

Instead, the FAS — the University’s largest faculty — will require a service statement about an applicant’s “efforts to strengthen academic communities” and a teaching and advising statement about how an applicant will foster a “learning environment in which students are encouraged to ask questions and share their ideas.”

While the FAS previously required all candidates to submit a statement describing their “efforts to encourage diversity, inclusion, and belonging, including past, current, and anticipated future contributions in these areas,” the two new statements will only be required from candidates who are finalists in the search process.

The updated requirements apply to the FAS’ internal promotion and review procedures as well as external hiring. Although candidates for some promotions were previously prompted to describe their contributions to diversity, inclusion, and belonging in “service/citizenship” statements, the handbook’s new language on service statements no longer asks candidates to discuss diversity efforts.

Harvard’s move comes as universities face increasing internal and external pressure to back away from diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. MIT announced a similar decision last month, saying it would stop requiring diversity statements for positions across the university.

Criticism of DEI efforts at Harvard reached an apex when former Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned in January following backlash of her handling of campus antisemitism and allegations of plagiarism in her academic work.

Many of the right-wing political leaders and activists who led the campaign to oust Gay, including former Harvard donor Bill A. Ackman ’88 and Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.), turned their criticisms of Gay’s leadership into attacks on DEI.

Those criticisms were part of a political backlash against DEI — and against diversity statements in particular. Since 2023, at least nine states have passed laws limiting universities’ use of diversity statements in hiring and promotion, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s tracker.

But the push to get rid of diversity statements was not limited to Gay’s right-wing critics or Republican-controlled state legislatures. In recent months, a number of Harvard professors have urged the University to back away from its use of the statements.

Critics argued that DIB statements force potential faculty members to declare their support for an institutional viewpoint instead of playing host to genuine reflection.

Psychology professor Steven A. Pinker, a co-president of the Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard, slammed diversity statements in a December 2023 Boston Globe op-ed, arguing that they “purge the next generation of scholars of anyone who isn’t a woke ideologue or a skilled liar.”

In April, CAFH dedicated an installment of its regular column published in The Crimson — which presents dueling views on contested topics — to the subject. Harvard Law School professor Randall L. Kennedy argued against diversity statements, while Philosophy professor Edward J. “Ned” Hall — a co-president of CAFH — wrote in favor.

Hall defended diversity statements as a way to understand how job candidates would educate classrooms of diverse students. But he criticized institutions’ expectations that candidates profess their dedication to “equity-based teaching” as a “horribly distorted view” of what such statements should contain.

In her email, Zipser wrote that she and Hoekstra made the changes in consultation with the Academic Planning Group, an advisory body consisting of the FAS’ highest-powered deans. Zipser and Hoekstra also discussed the changes with FAS diversity officials and solicited feedback from two FAS committees: the Committee on Appointments and Promotions and the newly-convened Classroom Social Compact Committee.

Although language on DIB statements has been scrubbed from the appointment and promotion handbook, Zipser presented the changes as a way to balance facilitating diversity and inclusion with other priorities.

“This broader perspective acknowledges the many ways faculty contribute to strengthening their academic communities, including efforts to increase diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.





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