CounterCurrent: Week of 10/23/2023
Has academia yet again traded quality for quantity? “Cluster hiring” is not a new practice in higher education, according to John D. Sailer in his new report Diversity Statement, Then Dossier. But the addition of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) to cluster hiring practices is a growing trend that should raise concerns for academic freedom and the mission of higher education. Sailer has done extensive research over the last several years to uncover the truth behind DEI cluster hiring, and what it means for the future of academia.
What is cluster hiring exactly? Until now, cluster hiring (i.e., “the coordinated hiring of faculty members in several departments to work on a shared research topic”) has been a tool to enhance faculty productivity and strengthen institutional subject matter knowledge. However, cluster hiring has now become a gateway for funneling minority faculty and DEI advocates into the classroom. Take for instance this job listing, which is by no means unique in its DEI-saturated language,
The Ohio State University’s Department of Mathematics recently sought a professor who will “study issues relevant to educational equity across STEM fields, with a special focus on race and other factors identifying historically marginalized groups.”
In his report, Sailer identifies multiple problems with the rise of DEI cluster hiring, though only a couple will be highlighted here (make sure to read Sailer’s full report). First, for an applicant to even get their foot in the door, they have to pass the diversity statement litmus test. Those who dissent from the orthodoxy rarely make it past the first round of diversity statement assessments, much less the first round of interviews. Additionally, a diversity statement requirement on applications is a handy way to camouflage racial preferences as far as faculty ethnicity.
Consider the Berkeley Life Sciences Initiative. The applicant pool was 53.7 percent white and 13.2 percent Hispanic. The shortlist was 13.6 percent white and 59.1 percent Hispanic. The largest reduction in the proportion of white candidates, and the largest increase in the proportion of Hispanic candidates, happened after the first-round review of diversity statements.
Second, DEI cluster hiring is being fueled by government funding. Take for instance the National Institute of Health’s Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program. The FIRST program was “designed to award $241 million to universities over nine years, specifically for creating faculty cluster hires.” Though it seems harmless, a deeper dive reveals the issue therein: faculty must “have demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusive excellence” if they are hired using FIRST money. Government funded initiatives can easily become a way to propagandize harmful ideologies on campus and derail our higher ed institutions from their true and deeper purpose—to educate.
The perversion of cluster hiring practices by DEI is a growing trend that cannot be ignored. Not only are twenty-two out of the top twenty-five public universities outwardly committed to DEI cluster hiring, this practice has spread to medical schools and institutions outside of the top twenty-five.
As academia continues to sell its soul, integrity, and freedom for little more than government handouts and virtue signaling, one has to wonder, when will the madness end? What will be the proverbial “straw” that breaks the camel’s back? Hiring faculty based on their contributions to a politically-fueled ideology over their qualifications is ludicrous and will ultimately derail the pursuit of truth and excellence in colleges and universities.
Until next week.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.