National Association of Scholars
1 Airport Place, Suite 7 • Princeton, NJ 08540-1532
phone: 609-683-7878 • fax: 609-683-0316
April 14, 2009
Contact: Peter Wood, President
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRINCETON, NJ—The National Association of Scholars welcomes the decision of President Charles W. Steger of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to rescind its policy of requiring faculty candidates for promotion and tenure to demonstrate their contributions to “diversity.”
Lawrence G. Hincker, Virginia tech’s associate vice president for University Relations confirmed this afternoon that “the provost has asked the college to rework its proposed guidelines. The fundamental problem was a requirement to produce materials in support of diversity.”
NAS broke the story of this policy on March 17 (“Free to Agree”), citing documents that had been provided by an anonymous source on the Virginia Tech faculty. NAS also provided other crucial details in a follow-up story (“Suitable for Framing”) and our Virginia affiliate the Virginia Association of Scholars called on President Steger to reverse the policy.
The story soon gained much wider attention. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) publicized the violations of First Amendment freedoms at the heart of Virginia Tech’s new policy. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) called on Virginia Tech’s board of trustees to review the policy. The editors of Virginia tech’s student newspaper also called on the University to rescind the policy. The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the story, but gave most of its attention to the excuses of the provost, Mark McNamee, who depicted the new policy as just an improved way for faculty members to report their voluntary service to the community.
Blogger John Wilson, however, uncovered an email from May 2008 in which Provost McNamee declared that candidates for promotion and tenure “do a better job of participating in and documenting their involvement in diversity initiatives.”
NAS President Peter Wood said, “We welcome this development, but we intend to remain vigilant. Virginia Tech’s current action falls short of eliminating the bad policy altogether. Faculty members should be judged on the quality of their teaching and scholarship, not on their willingness to conform to an ideology.”
“The problem at Virginia Tech is that it lost sight of basic principles. Diversity is a valuable goal when it means openness to people and ideas. But openness is lost when faculty members are told that to keep their jobs they have to promote a political line.”
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The National Association of Scholars is America’s foremost higher education reform group. Located in Princeton, NJ, it has forty-six state affiliates and more than four thousand professors, graduate students, administrators, and trustees as members.