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Political Litmus Test: Virginia Tech mandates “diversity-related accomplishments” for tenure and faculty performance reports. FIRE launches massive PR offensive.

Posted by iusbvision on April 1, 2009

Diversity and multiculturalism, we get buried in it at universities these days, yet in spite of that, college faculty as a group, remains among the most intolerant of any I have encountered. The anti-semitism, hostility to traditional Americana, capitalism and intellectual diversity are such huge problems at universities these days that I am authoring a book on the subject.

For those of you who are not on campus and aren’t familiar with “diversity and multiculturalism”, in short it is a focus on our differences, the devaluation of and a propagandized attack against Western Civilization, an attack on capitalism, the tribalization of many foreign cultures, and the preaching of cultural and political Marxism. The far left will not describe it that way, but after years of exposure to it the goals become crystal clear.

It is no secret that there are ideological litmus tests used in the tenure process. There are respected studies that demonstrate this. One of the more famous cases is the example of Dr. Mike Adams at UNC, who was the teacher of the year and the darling of his department, until he converted to Christianity and announced that he was going to vote Republican and all of the sudden he was not fit to keep his position. We have many cases of similar illegal and unfair intolerance in our category:

Our friends at FIRE have countless examples if this behavior. What makes this story so unusual is that instead of the laughable denials that are so often given by administrators and faculty of such illegal and discriminatory practices, Virginia Tech has written their illegal political/cultural litmus test right into their official policy! In a way I have a strange respect for Virginia Tech for putting this in writing instead of continuing to have this as the unwritten rule that is so often the case at too many universities.

Without further delay, here are the goods straight from FIRE:

Here are some more documents that show the requirements to be ingrained at Virginia Tech, not just aspirational. At the very least, these are far from viewpoint-neutral bases for faculty assessment: — dossier section X.D.: “Contributions to diversity initiatives.” — VII.C.: “Contributions to diversity.” — even nominations for appointments to the rank of Distinguished Professor are, in section VII, to “Highlight contributions to diversity.” — a resolution “that diversity-related accomplishments be reported as part of the annual faculty activity reports (FAR) beginning with the next annual evaluation cycle which ends spring 2007; and [t]hat during fall 2006, colleges and vice presidential areas develop formats for the FAR that embed diversity accomplishments and goals as appropriate for the university’s mission; and [t]hat personnel committees and department heads give consistent attention to these activities in the evaluation process and provide appropriate feedback to faculty members concerning their diversity contributions and goals…”

Bauerlein is absolutely right: “What else would a junior faculty [member] think when looking at those guidelines but, “Hey, I better get a couple of diversity activities on my CV this year”?

Here is More:

NAS reports today, a May 29, 2008 memorandumto Virginia Tech’s department heads basically demands “diversity accomplishments”:

Diversity accomplishments: Diversity accomplishments are a meaningful part of the faculty review process. Candidates must do a better job of participating in and documenting their involvement in diversity initiatives. Diversity accomplishments are especially important for candidates seeking promotion to full professor.Please use the categories developed by the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity to prompt and organize diversity-related contributions. The categories may be found at section VII. C. 1. – 8. of the promotion and tenure guidelines. They are also available at Committees are asked to develop working expectations for department members, perhaps sharing good examples, and to review diversity contributions included in the dossier with those expectations in mind. (Emphasis added.)

When questioned about this, Provost McNamee issued the standard non-denial denial that is par for the course out of college administrators and he says that none of these guidelines are a requirement.

After looking at the published guidelines FIRE says, just as we at IUSB Vision say, it seems like a requirement to us. Which is it, Provost McNamee? This writer has long ago ceased to be amazed when a college administrator issues a denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Let us digress for a moment and bring you the letter that FIRE’s Adam Kissel sent to Virginia Tech. This letter is a MUST read for anyone interested in academics. It is highly educational and we cannot help but comment on the letter’s sheer entertainment value as a legal nasty-gram in which Adam has shown unswerving ability at penning.

We encourage you to read the entire letter. Here are our favorite parts (excerpted):

If Virginia Tech truly believes in tolerance (leaving aside issues of academic freedom) it simply cannot require professors to incorporate a political orthodoxy into their courses, no matter how much the university may believe in the tenets of that orthodoxy and wish others to embrace those tenets. Presumably, faculty are employed by Virginia Tech for the purpose of “discovery and dissemination of new knowledge” (quoting Virginia Tech’s “Statement of Mission and Purpose”), not to demonstrate fealty to an abstract and ill-defined participatory ideal. Their prospects for promotion and tenure should be evaluated accordingly.

As a public institution, Virginia Tech is legally and morally bound by the First Amendment and the decisions of the Supreme Court concerning academic freedom at public colleges and universities. In Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 603 (1967) the Supreme Court noted that “[o]ur Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned.” This being the case, the Court further explained that the First Amendment “does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom . . . [which] is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of ideas.'” In the landmark case of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943) the Court made clear the importance of freedom of conscience in our liberal democracy: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” The Court concluded that “the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution” was precisely to protect “from all official control” the domain that was “the sphere of intellect and spirit.”

Your policy, in short, requires professors to affirm that their classes incorporate assumptions about bias, race, gender, other group identities, and cultural differences. This is no different from requiring that instructors demonstrate their belief in Americanism, empiricism, biological determinism, or creationism. These may be perfectly valid intellectual viewpoints, but viewpoints may not be imposed at a public institution (and should not be imposed by any institution devoted to academic freedom) by fiat through official requirements.

It is a human failing common to us all that we rarely see our own abuses of power, and no one, right, left, or center, is innocent of that failing. Once these abuses are called to consciousness, however, it becomes a moral imperative to restrain ourselves and to grant to others the academic freedom that we would demand for ourselves. The sad days of “loyalty oaths” to political ideologies have already once darkened the academy. Let us not revive them ourselves or tolerate their resurrection by others.

We ask that Virginia Tech’s existing and proposed evaluative criteria for promotion and tenure candidates be revised to accord with the First Amendment and common sense.

FIRE hopes to resolve this situation amicably and swiftly; we are, however, prepared to use all of our resources to see this situation through to a just conclusion. We request a response by April 15, 2009.


Adam Kissel

The National Association of Scholars issued this statement:

NAS has published an expose article on how Virginia Tech has imposed a political test on candidates for promotion and tenure. Specifically, Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is making active support and advancement of “diversity”a requirement for faculty to keep their positions and for promotion.

This is a highly unusual step-one that flouts academic freedom. “Diversity” is not a category of academic accomplishment equivalent to high-quality teaching or success in scholarly research and publishing. “Diversity” is an ideology. The term summarizes a set of objectives popular on one part of the political spectrum. Virginia Tech, which is a public university, has no business turning a partisan political credo into a test that must be passed for faculty members to win tenure or to advance in rank.

To read Peter Wood’s article (“Free to Agree”) on the Virginia Tech policy, click here.

Adam Kissel authored another article on FIRE’s blog which brings even more clarity to FIRE’s position in this matter.

Suppose the provost at your college started a new “patriotism” initiative. In the first year, he would permit faculty members to self-report their “patriotism accomplishments.” In the second year, faculty members would be strongly encouraged to report their “patriotism accomplishments” on their annual reports of their activities. In the third year, faculty members would be told that “patriotism accomplishments are especially important for faculty seeking tenure and promotion,” and dossiers for tenure and promotion would include a multi-part section on “patriotism.” There would be a list of kinds of activities that would count as sufficiently “patriotic.” Faculty assessment in the area of “patriotism” would include attention to patriotism in one’s publications and one’s syllabus, and faculty members would be encouraged to further educate themselves about “patriotism” by going to patriotic events.

Or put the word “Christianity” in place of “patriotism.” Suppose the provost tells all faculty, graduate students, and tenure and review committees that Christian activities are something they can choose to report in their self-assessments. After three years, there is a “Christian accomplishments” section in the tenure dossier, a list of approved activities, and strong pressure to incorporate Christian themes into faculty members’ research, teaching, and professional development.


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