Missouri State University clings to robust Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs and ‘loyalty oaths’ despite nationwide retreat from them

Even as companies, universities and whole states back away from divisive and legally suspect Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, Missouri State University is all in – even requiring job…

Even as companies, universities and whole states back away from divisive and legally suspect Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, Missouri State University is all in – even requiring job applicants to state their commitment to the unspecified dogma.

“When uploading materials, submit a brief statement outlining your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” an MSU online job application for assistant professor tells prospective hires.

Is it an ideological litmus test for being hired at Missouri State? Are job applicants’ chances tied to how they answer that directive on DEI?

“That’s my view. That’s how it reads,” says Patrick Ishmael, director of government accountability at Missouri’s Show-Me Institute think tank. “I presume that universities don’t ask for statements or materials that are irrelevant to their hiring.”

Some other universities around the country are more explicit about their DEI creeds – such as talking about “decolonizing math, for instance,” Ishmael says. “They use more robust social justice language.” Still, without defining exactly what it means by DEI, MSU makes it highly difficult for applicants to fully understand the requirements in its job postings.

And it may signal that applicants with differing ideological views need not apply.

“It’s not just about the people who do apply,” Ishmael explains. “It’s about people who don’t apply. And if you’re trying to filter and create a faculty that all thinks the same, that is more or less what you’re going to get here with an application process that looks like this.

“Requiring attestations about political and ideological issues that may have nothing to do with any (academic) instruction … will almost certainly mean that you’re going to have professors in the classroom that might have been (hired) in lieu of a better professor who may not have fit the DEI requirements that the university put out.

“I think that it’s important that we hire the most qualified candidates for these positions of expertise and instruction. I think that, as soon as you have universities going outside those boundaries into more ideological spaces that don’t necessarily apply to positions, it can hurt the kids that would be learning from those professors, because they may not be getting the best professors. And I think it hurts applicants who may have a different perspective about ideological issues that aren’t relevant to the work that they’re doing for the state.”

The problem for MSU may be twofold: Requiring a stated commitment to racial orthodoxy beyond what’s required in statutes may run afoul of the law and Constitution; in addition, having undefined notions of what DEI means opens the door to “a lot more ideological content” that’s unadvertised, Ishmael points out.

Missouri State’s Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI), which includes nearly a dozen staff on its organizational chart, chose not respond to questions posed by The Lion – opting instead to wait for the university’s amassing of records on its DEI programs that are being requested by The Heartlander.

“You will get our collective responses all at once,” Dr. Algerian Hart, interim chief diversity officer, politely told The Lion.

MSU’s DDEI includes such things as a grant-making Diversity Fund and a Bias Response Team through which aggrieved students and staff can file a “Bias Incident Report.”

All this comes at a time of national backlash against ill-defined, arguably racist and perhaps hastily instituted DEI policies and programs in universities:

  • New College of Florida voted Tuesday to abolish its four-person DEI department, known as the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence.
  • The University of North Carolina voted last week to prohibit DEI statements and other compelled speech in matters of admission, hiring, promotion and tenure.
  • The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents last week paused all new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies at its 13 campuses and requested reports on the policies.

“Certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent,” UT System board Chair Kevin Eltife said, “to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers around those efforts on campuses across our entire state.”

Indeed, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office had warned state agencies and universities earlier in February that use of DEI initiatives in hiring violates employment laws, and cautioned them not to hire based on anything “other than merit.”

“The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others,” Abbott’s office wrote.

Texas legislators also are leading the way in banning mandatory DEI statements, along with Utah, West Virginia and Florida. In addition, at least Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee are debating laws requiring more transparency in DEI programs.

Likewise, Ishmael warned against what he called DEI “loyalty oaths” in Missouri in a Feb. 21 blog.

“‘Loyalty oaths’ can mean a lot of things,” he wrote, “but here I mean ‘loyalty oath’ to be an ideological attestation required for public employment. Want to work at Missouri State? UMSL? UMKC? You might have to toe the DEI line first, even though doing so (1) is prejudicial to applicants, (2) undermines the free inquiry objectives of government colleges and universities by homogenizing professors, and (3) could deny Missouri students the best teachers by biasing hiring toward ideologues rather than experts.”

Ishmael also found a job application for a math professor at the University of Missouri that makes clear an applicant who can “employ justice-oriented frameworks (e.g., anti-racist, abolitionist, decolonial, indigenous)” to the teaching of math would, remarkably, be preferred over other applicants.

Staff at colleges and universities actually may not be as supportive of DEI loyalty oaths as campus leaders might think. A survey of nearly 1,500 professors by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression shows that, “Faculty are split evenly on whether diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements are a justifiable requirement for a university job (50%) or are an ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom (50%).”

A growing number of companies, citing the economy and the need for layoffs, have recently been cutting DEI staff – in fact, by more than other departments. “The 12-month rate of attrition for DEI employees was 33% in December 2022, compared to 21% for non-DEI roles,” reports The Daily Caller, citing such corporations as Target, Capital One, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Twitter, Nike and Intel.

“When economic conditions become uncertain, companies pare back their spending to the essentials,” Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of networking firm RedBalloon, said. “While well intentioned, most DEI programs are simply virtue signaling, often at the expense of healthy company culture. The c-suites understand this, and in choppy economic waters, DEI is likely slated to be among the first to go.”

As for institutions of higher learning, the Washington Examiner opines that DEI “is poisoning college campuses.”

“The stated purpose of these programs is to make people feel more included. But what happens if those programs are doing precisely the opposite?” the newspaper asks.

The Examiner cites a study exposing that a sense of belonging at Texas A&M has actually dropped sharply among blacks, Hispanics and whites during the eight years of fervent DEI efforts there.

“So thanks to DEI, everyone now feels less included,” The Examiner concludes, adding:

“This really shouldn’t come as a shock. If you give black students the DEI mantra, telling them that they can never get a fair shake in life because all white people hate them and can never change, it isn’t hard to see why they would suddenly start feeling less welcome. By the same token, if you tell all the white students that they are inherently, irredeemably racist simply by virtue of their skin color, again, a central tenet of DEI programs and their underlying critical race theory ideology, they also feel less welcome.”

“I’ve worked with a few diversity and inclusion (or “unconscious bias”) companies,” writes The Daily Caller’s Kay Smythe, “and found them to be one of the most racist, antagonistic, borderline-scam concepts I’ve ever witnessed. As the lead writer and researcher, I oversaw the development of a laughably racist training video that involved tricking members of the public into perceived racist behaviors.”

Columnist David Marcus is reminded of a scene in the movie Office Space in which corporate downsizing consultants asks a pointless employee, “What would you say … you do here?”

“This is the question being asked of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion departments at major corporations these days,” Marcus writes, “and frankly, the answers are wanting.” Marcus goes on to describe the typical DEI operation as “employees confessing their privilege, filling out little homework forms about their inherent racism, and the officers of these departments raking in the big bucks.”

Department heads are often called on to justify their budgets, especially at times such as these. “What can the DEI department point to?” asks Marcus. “How does it prove it has made the company less racist? Assuming it was ever racist in the first place. …

“Ultimately, the problem with DEI departments, and the cause of their demise, is that they were never based on reason, but always on emotional appeals. American workplaces are not rife with systemic racism, but the purveyors of DEI never had to prove that they were. … [S]uch departments cause more harm than good.”