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The Mass Media

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The Mass Media

UMass Boston removes DEI requirements from faculty job applications

On Nov. 30, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression released an article regarding UMass Boston removing their diversity, equity and inclusion requirements from faculty applications. This removal came following five months of discussion with the two parties, ultimately culminating in UMass Boston quietly removing the requirements from listings.

According to the article written by FIRE, “In particular, an application for a computer science professor position required ‘a diversity statement that reflects’ not only experience with, but ‘commitment’ to, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Another such listing required applicants to demonstrate a commitment ‘to support[ing] our goal of ensuring an inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplace and educational environment.’” (1).

Diving further into the second listing, which was for a full time Exercise and Health Sciences faculty member, the position focuses on the faculty and their work with “…special populations such as physical activity promotion in older adults, people of color who are cancer survivors, children with special needs, and Latinx and immigrant populations.” (2).

Though the listing for the computer science professor is much more brief, it shares a similar viewpoint in its expression for diversity, equity and inclusion via its request for a diversity statement. It also states how UMass Boston is “nationally recognized as a model of excellence for urban public universities,” and that “we strive to hire a diverse workforce that reflects and complements the incredible diversity of our student body.” (3).

According to FIRE, DEI requirements can often serve as political litmus tests that allow universities to filter their applicants based on views. In addition, FIRE states that as a state university, UMass Boston is required to uphold the first amendment and allow their faculty to express varying opinions and beliefs (1).

In their letter to Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco sent on June 26, FIRE stated “UMass Boston can certainly prioritize diversity initiatives, but as a public institution bound by the First Amendment, it must uphold the freedom of expression and academic freedom of its faculty, including by making hiring decisions in a viewpoint-neutral manner. UMass Boston accordingly cannot reject or penalize applicants because of their failure to profess allegiance to any particular political or ideological position.” (4).

FIRE’s Program Officer for Campus Rights Advocacy Haley Gluhanich explained the issue with many DEI commitment statements, especially at public institutions like UMass Boston, is that “schools can prioritize diversity initiatives […], but public institutions are bound by the First Amendment, so they have to make sure that their prioritization of diversity initiatives are within the boundaries of the First Amendment and the Constitution. The biggest issue that we find with these DEI commitment requirements is oftentimes they are very vague and that is where the issue comes in in terms of being unconstitutional.”

When asked about how to best implement DEI statements in applications, especially at diverse schools like UMass Boston, Gluhanich stated, “If the school wants to have some sort of DEI requirement in their applications, they have to provide definitions and make sure the definitions don’t exclude any viewpoint or belief. For diversity, there’s multiple types of diversity including political ideology diversity, so just making sure that applicants know that any sort of diversity, any sort of thought, opinion, belief could be counted towards this requirement.”

Furthering this statement, UMass Boston Provost Joseph Berger stated in an email that UMass Boston is “informed by changes in regulations and law, and we will continue to comply with all applicable employment laws pertaining to the hiring of our faculty and will continue to support our faculty’s Constitutional rights while we embrace our diverse community at UMass Boston.”

In addition, Provost Berger provided insight into what this will look like going forward by providing an example of the language used in new listings. In the same email, Berger also stated:

“UMass Boston is an urban public research university with a teaching soul, whose impact is both local and global. We are the third most diverse university in the country—more than 60% of our undergraduate students come from minoritized communities and groups and more than half of our students are the first in their families to attend a college or university. Thus, our students come to us from richly diverse life experiences and backgrounds; they bring to our classrooms and research settings the robust range of perspectives growing out of the socio-cultural, economic, and historical contexts in which they have lived, along with the challenges they encounter, engage, and strive to overcome.

We invite applications from candidates who engage the diverse life experiences of our student body, who appreciate that students bring their holistic selves into the academic setting, and who recognize and articulate how their own life experiences and backgrounds have shaped their journeys, practices, and commitments as researchers, scholars, and educators.”

  1. https://www.thefire.org/news/victory-umass-boston-quietly-removes-dei-requirements-faculty-applications
  2. https://perma.cc/2JT5-MP6G
  3. https://perma.cc/JUW6-M7MY
  4. https://www.thefire.org/research-learn/fire-letter-university-massachusetts-boston-june-26-2023
About the Contributor
Katrina Sanville, Editor-In-Chief