Under Pressure, UT Austin Asserts Commitment to Intellectual Diversity

David Acevedo

Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.

Last week, the National Association of Scholars reported on the “Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Strategic Plan,” a comprehensive proposal issued by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Texas at Austin. NAS received the leaked document from an anonymous UT Austin faculty member.

The draft proposal, here called the Plan, is designed to “create an inclusive environment of teaching, research, and service in which all can learn from one another, productively interact, and share in the benefits of learning and working at a diverse university.” [emphasis added] 

As always, definitions matter. What does UT Austin mean by “a diverse university”? The Plan goes on:

The institution [UT Austin] embraces diversity, equity, and inclusivity in many forms. We are dedicated to the principle that individuals of all races, ethnicities, peoples, nationalities, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, socio- economic statuses, disabilities, and health histories, regardless of their marital, parental, age, veteran, or citizenship status, be respected, equitably included, and enjoy equitable access to opportunities. [emphasis added]

The Plan is only concerned with diversity of physical, social, or legal “identities.” There is no mention of intellectual or ideological diversity. In fact, by requiring all prospective and current faculty to pledge their unquestioning belief in “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” as the Plan in its current form does, UT Austin actively quashes intellectual diversity by excluding those who are not strict practitioners of progressive orthodoxy. 

NAS’s overview was recently featured in a piece published by The College Fix. After citing our analysis of the Plan’s key aspects, the Fix reports:

Meanwhile, an official at the University of Texas said the document is far from complete and is still being reviewed by administration.

“The document shared online by the National Association of Scholars is not a policy but a draft of a plan still being discussed and finalized,” the university’s director of media relations J.B. Bird told The College Fix via email. [emphasis added]

Bird continued:

“The final faculty hiring plan, which is not complete, will continue to place the highest priority on a candidate’s record of teaching, research and academic service while giving candidates some way to include in their application service that contributes to diversity. The university will continue to seek faculty with a wide range of political, religious, philosophical, ideological, and academic viewpoints.” [emphasis added]

Keyword: continue. In using the word twice, J.B. Bird implies that UT Austin already places “the highest priority on a candidate’s record of teaching, research and academic service” and already seeks “faculty with a wide range of political, religious, philosophical, ideological, and academic viewpoints.” He also implies that the Plan will not disrupt either of these policies, as they will continue under the proposed regulations.

Whether or not UT Austin has operated according to these standards in the past is largely unknowable. But to assert that the Plan will not hinder merit-based success and intellectual diversity in the future is simply dishonest. As I write in our original report:

UT Austin leadership specifically seeks diversity of “identity” over and against viewpoint diversity—a fundamentally progressive quest that cuts against what should be the university’s ideological neutrality. …

The assumptions, methods, and goals of UT Austin’s proposed “Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Strategic Plan” are the work of ideologues, not public servants. In the name of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” university leadership has decided to end its search for truth and to instead become a redistribution scheme for the transfer of money from students and taxpayers to new hires that, by necessity, must be committed zealots of the regime.

It is not possible to pursue identity-based diversity as an end in itself without sacrificing intellectual diversity and individual merit in the process. NAS is glad to know that UT Austin at least claims to value “political, religious, philosophical, ideological, and academic” diversity, but the university’s insistence that it will continue unhindered in no way means that this language will make it into the final Plan. It may very well not. And even if it does, it will necessarily be undercut by all of the Plan’s core proposals.

We hope we’re wrong—that this proposal was so full of good intentions that its authors were carried away with goodwill, but failed to think through the consequences. The alternative seems too uncharitable for the leaders of the University of Texas.

Regardless, NAS will continue to follow UT Austin’s development of the Plan. Their newfound commitment to individual merit and ideological diversity will be of great interest to us. We, along with UT Austin alumni and Texas taxpayers, will be watching closely.

John David is a Communications & Administrative Associate at the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Jr1038, Public Domain

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