Programs dedicated to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at universities have been on the rise for several years. In fact, in early 2022 LinkedIn ranked “diversity and inclusion manager” as the second-fastest growing job in the United States over the past five years.
But for every program or position created, it seems like there is also a conservative group ready to get rid of one.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a “conservative think tank,” has, for many months, been criticizing public universities for requiring diversity statements from potential candidates.
Diversity statements are written explanations of someone’s experience, plans or commitments to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. They are most commonly required for those applying to jobs in education to help ensure all staff foster a positive, equitable learning environment for every student.
An article published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation regarding this issue reads: “The purpose of diversity statements is to disadvantage or weed out dissidents — any candidate in favor of a free society and against the ideological pursuits of the university.”
Despite there being no evidence that these requirements harm prospective employees, or even that they are extensively used at Idaho’s universities, the Idaho State Board of Education recently sided with the IFF.
On April 25, the board unanimously approved a resolution that prohibits Idaho’s four-year public institutions from requiring, or even requesting, written diversity statements from candidates applying for employment. The resolution was discussed for only a matter of minutes.
“Hiring decisions should be made based on merit and the qualifications of the candidates,” State Board President Kurt Liebich said in a press release. “Requiring written statements can complicate matters and take the focus off qualifications of individual candidates.”
But having the knowledge and experience to promote diversity and inclusion is a merit in and of itself and there were no reasons given as to why it cannot be taken into consideration alongside the rest of the candidate’s qualifications.
The resolution goes into effect immediately and impacts Boise State University, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.
This decision is an alarming precedent to be set by the state board as there is already an extensive push from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, along with several other organizations and politicians, to ban all diversity, equity and inclusion programs from public schools in Idaho.