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University Touts Commitment To Free Speech While Grading Applicants On Their Diversity Commitments

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) grades job applicants on their commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) despite touting its commitment to free expression, according to its website.

The Ohio university uses the statements to determine whether applicants “support the University’s mission and values” that include increasing “inclusion and belonging” on campus, according to the rubric website. However, the school also touted its Freedom of Expression policy on the rubric website and clarified that it is “not looking for applicants to express any specific ideologies.”

“It rings ironic for Bowling Green State University to highlight its free expression policy while explaining its diversity statement policy,” National Association of Scholars fellow John Sailer told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Diversity statements don’t just violate academic freedom. Legal scholars from across the political spectrum have argued that they violate the First Amendment.”

While search committee members are warned to not “score someone poorly because you do not share their perspective,” the rubric shows that candidates are scored lower for providing vague or minimal details about their DEI commitments. Diversity statements are weighed as either “lacking evidence,” providing “some evidence” or providing “optimal evidence” about the applicants’ knowledge, awareness and application of DEI.

“We are not looking for applicants to express any specific ideologies, we are trying to understand how or if at all equity, diversity, and/or inclusion within the professional setting have shaped your perspective on the issue,” the website reads, later clarifying that its DEI commitment “is not aimed at producing ideological conformity.”

Sailer, however, told the DCNF that “it’s not hard to see why” diversity statements could violate applicants’ First Amendment rights.

“The term ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ often connotes a substantive set of social and political views,” he explained. “Yet, Bowling Green’s own diversity statement rubric very clearly rewards candidates who espouse DEI as a core value, and it at least implicitly punishes candidates who are skeptical of DEI policies in higher education. It’s an invitation to police job candidates’ social and political views. That isn’t fixed by vague references to ‘free expression.’”

A Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) survey published in February found that half of university professors believe diversity statements are an “ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom.” Multiple Republican-led states including Utah, Florida and West Virginia have introduced bills that would ban the use of diversity statements during the hiring process in higher education.

BGSU did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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