Kissel's Op-Ed on VT Faculty Litmus Test

Ashley Thorne

Adam Kissel, director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, has an excellent op-ed in the Virginia Tech student newspaper Collegiate Times, arguing that "the university often crosses the line when it coerces faculty members to conform to the university's 'diversity' mission." Kissel is referring to a Virginia Tech policy which NAS exposed this spring, that requires faculty members to prove their commitment to "diversity" to keep their positions and for promotion. This policy is plainly political and geared toward weeding out faculty members that dissent from the politically correct norm. Kissel explains that "the Diversity Committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences has invested the term 'diversity' with a specific, ideological meaning that binds the academic freedom and conscience of faculty members." The Diversity Committee defines diversity as:

acknowledging and respecting that socially constructed differences based on certain characteristics exist within systems of power that create and sustain inequality, hierarchy, and privilege.

Because it has an ideological meaning, therefore, "involvement in diversity initiatives" does not belong in a university policy as a requirement for faculty promotion and tenure. Since uncovering the policy this spring, NAS and FIRE have gathered documentation, written letters to the university, and responded firmly to Virginia Tech's weak defenses of its litmus test. Kissel's op-ed invoking freedom of conscience is the newest of our efforts to urge Virginia Tech to revise its policy and allow professors to choose their own personal values.

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