I write representing the National Association of Scholars (NAS). Since 1987, the NAS has defended liberal values in education. We include the sciences and engineering as prime areas of concern.
I write to address concerns expressed to us from several of our members about the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology's (ABET) proposed rule change (Criterion 5.d), which mandates that “a component that promotes inclusion, diversity, and equity awareness for success in the profession” be included in engineering curricula as a condition for accreditation.
The NAS supports the rights of engineering faculty to set standards for educational programs in engineering. Accreditation plays a useful role in guiding the development of programs that will produce well-educated and competent engineers.
There is near universal support among engineers for Criteria 5.a, 5.b, and 5.c., which mandate the technical skills engineers will need for success in their professions, and to ensure the safety of the public they serve.
Criterion 5.d., in contrast, is poorly justified and coercive in nature. It demands that engineering faculty fall into line with this mandate or risk the accreditation status of the programs they wish to develop. Also contained in Criterion 5.d. is a veiled threat to students, that “success in the profession” will demand “awareness of inclusion, diversity, and equity.” This is overreach on the part of ABET.
The NAS supports the ideal of equal protection under the law for all Americans, irrespective of race, creed, or sex. We support the rights of faculty to set the terms of their own professions. We support the right of engineering faculty to voluntarily adopt the aims set out in Criterion 5.d., should the faculty see fit to do so.
We do not support the demand that an essentially political agenda be imposed on any educational program, including engineering.
Criterion 5.d. runs counter to all those ideals. We hope that the engineering profession rejects this act of accreditation overreach.
J Scott Turner
Director of the Intrusion of Diversity in the Sciences project
National Association of Scholars