The Diversity Debacle

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 11/06/2023

Yet again diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) makes a mess at another university. 

A recent internal report by the University of Washington (UW) has revealed that the university engaged in illegal, race-based hiring practices. John D. Sailer, senior fellow and director of university policy at the National Association of Scholars, has been tracking this case since April of this year, and in his recent article, reports on the new findings in the investigation. 

Sailer writes, "The report—issued by what is now the UW Civil Rights Investigation Office (CRIO), and based on a review of emails, recorded faculty meetings, and one interview—shows how the Department of Psychology’s Diversity Advisory Committee pressured one hiring committee to re-rank finalist candidates on the basis of race."     

A quick summary of events, a hiring committee at UW oversaw the recruitment of a position titled “Diversity in Development,” which was intended to bring in psychologists with specialization in DEI. Though UW had Executive Order 31 in place (i.e., “the university ‘will recruit, hire, train, and promote individuals’ without regard to demographic categories like race, color, and sex”), the university’s hiring committee was found to have been swayed from their unanimous ranking of candidates by members of the Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC). 

In the words of the report, they “acquiesced.” The new ranking placed the black candidate first, the Asian candidate second, and the white candidate third …. This re-ranking of candidates is the most serious violation of university policy described in the report. 

In April of this year, the position was offered to and accepted by the black candidate. Shortly after, the university was plunged into an investigation regarding their hiring processes through an internal whistleblower. The university has also announced that it will no longer use the case study, Promising Practices for Increasing Equity in Faculty Searches, created by the Department of Psychology which the DAC “treated as unofficial hiring policy” during this debacle.  

Through records requests, Sailer obtained the initial internal documents and conversations regarding the investigation, and by December of this year, we expect to obtain more documentation from UW. 

The UW incident isn't a lone ranger in this DEI saga. But, it does urge us to ask a crucial question: Who's really reaping the rewards of DEI? The students’ educational experience, or the political and financial gains of the institution/faculty? Sailer sums up the issue with DEI pervading college administrations in a statement for Inside Higher Ed: “‘racial preferences cause people to prioritize things that are other than what these roles were created for, and I think it’s a bad move when institutions try to hire on the basis of race’ rather than excellence in ‘a given domain.’”  

As DEI hiring practices become increasingly popular in institutions to boost faculty diversity, they seem to be falling short of rekindling the flames of truth and excellence. Academia has danced with conflicting interests for too long, but now, its flirtation with DEI is drawing attention. With cases like UW coming to the forefront, there's hope for higher education to face the music and be held accountable. 

Until next week.

(For a more in-depth history of events, read Sailer’s article and this Inside Higher Ed article).

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Photo by Richard Sagredo on Unsplash

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