In 2008, I was in graduate school and applying for tenure-track jobs in philosophy across the country. My applications fell into two piles: those that required faith statements and those that didn’t. Many religious colleges required applicants to either write their own faith statement or sign on to a standardized one. This bothered me.He goes on to give examples of diversity statements, and show how t hey are worse than faith statements.
It’s not that I didn’t have faith commitments. I did. But as a philosopher, I wasn’t ready to sign just anything. I craved the careful distinctions, nuance and subtlety that faith statements often papered over. As a result, I had to pore over the standardized statements to ensure that I could sign in good conscience or construct my own that hewed closely to my intellectual, moral and religious commitments. Secular institutions were so much easier.
Contrary to what you might think, many secular institutions now require faith statements, too. They go by the name diversity statements, but they function in the same ways as faith statements at religious institutions.
In sum, both faith and diversity statements artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions. Realizing that they are on a par should give us pause. Religious colleges are private institutions that are typically up front about their religious orientations. In that context, a faith statement makes sense. But requiring a functionally similar statement at a public institution is a bad idea.It is getting worse than the old Soviet Union.
Even setting aside questions of whether it’s legal to require diversity statements at public schools (arguably not) and whether doing so helps students (there’s no evidence that it does), doing so likely contributes to the further intellectual polarization of the academy. Faculty are already overwhelmingly progressive, and given our propensity to evaluate politically charged issues in light of our own biases, it’s plausible that requiring job applicants to provide diversity statements further increases the probability that applicants espousing progressive views about the nature of and solutions to diversity-related problems are hired over politically moderate or conservative competitors. That’s something that should worry anyone interested in building communities that are trustworthy, intellectually diverse and vibrant.