Violates Proposition 209?
Legal action may be taken against the University of California-Berkeley after it released a document showing that mandatory diversity statements may have led to discrimination in hiring.
(Article by Lexi Lonas republished from TheCollegeFix.com)
The six-page document analyzes the taxpayer-funded institution’s new focus on hiring job candidates based on “knowledge, past contributions, and/or future plans for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.” If candidates didn’t meet UC-Berkeley’s standards in this area, they weren’t hired.
The 2018-2019 summary report for the “Initiative to Advance Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Life Sciences” was written by two science professors, Mary Wildermuth and Rebecca Heald, who is also regional associate dean. They are co-chairs for the Life Sciences Initiative Committee.
Daniel Ortner, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, told two academic blogs that he is “looking to challenge the University of California Policy.” He wants anyone who was required to submit a mandatory diversity statement and not hired to contact him.
The policy has “several serious constitutional problems,” Ortner told The College Fix in an email. He started looking into it when “[s]ome concerned UC professors” contacted him: “[T]he more I’ve looked into it the worse UC’s actions appear.”
When applicants are required to submit a diversity statement on their own experience, university reviewers would likely be able to tell the applicants’ race and gender, “allowing those factors to be taken into account,” Ortner said.
That is “contrary to California Proposition 209,” the 23-year-old ballot initiative that amended the state constitution, “and potentially the Equal Protection Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.
The Fix emailed and called Heald multiple times asking what hiring officials were looking for in diversity statements and what they meant by “past contributions” to diversity. She did not respond. Wildermuth did not respond to emails, and her office phone was disconnected.
Hispanic applicants were the big winners
The document says six Life Sciences departments in three colleges agreed to this initiative and will “incorporate interventions in all future faculty recruitments.”
Some departments have “met resistance by a small number of senior faculty members” to the initiative, Heald and Wildermuth noted. They did not list any names of such senior faculty members or respond to The Fix when asked to identify them.
“A Life Sciences Initiative (LSI) Committee was formed early in the fall of 2018 to implement the initiative and serve as the search committee for our joint open-field faculty recruitment,” the document states.
The committee met 19 times over the school year and was made up of 22 faculty and staff members from all departments. It discussed and implemented four interventions: building a critical mass, strengthening applicant pools, improving candidate evaluation processes, and institutional change.
Heald and Wildermuth included tables that show the percentage of each ethnicity and gender represented in the three hiring stages, from the full applicant pool to the intermediate “Longlist” and the final “Shortlist.”
University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne, whose blog often criticizes perceived attacks on academic freedom, shared his analysis of both tables.
In one of them, the “cluster search” across Life Sciences departments, Coyne observed that “the proportion of minorities increased” on both the long and short lists, except for Asian and Native Americans:
White males, who are supposed to be eliminated by this kind of search, were also significantly whittled away. In contrast, Hispanics and African Americans were considerably enriched, with the proportions on the final shortlist (interviewees) enriched by 4.5-fold and 3.25-fold respectively.
The cluster search first reviewed candidates for five full-time equivalent positions “based solely on contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion,” removing the names to reduce “unconscious bias in the evaluation processes.” Less than a quarter of nearly 900 applicants who met basic qualifications made it past this first review.