Harvard Eliminates Diversity Statements in Hiring

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Photo courtesy of Cytonn Photography

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will no longer require diversity and inclusion statements as part of its hiring process. This change was detailed in a Monday email from Nina Zipser, PhD, dean of faculty affairs and planning. 

Previously, job applicants were asked to outline their contributions to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Moving forward, they will be asked to detail their plans to “strengthen academic communities” and foster a “learning environment in which students are encouraged to ask questions and share their ideas.”

This shift comes amidst intense scrutiny of DEI efforts at Harvard and other major universities. Jonathan Palumbo, a communications director at Harvard, told CNN that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is now requesting “broader and more robust service statements” as part of the hiring process. He emphasized that this updated approach acknowledges the various ways faculty can contribute to their academic communities, including efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.

Zipser’s email noted that the decision considered feedback from faculty members who felt the previously required statements were too narrow. In an April op-ed in The Harvard Crimson, Harvard Law School professor Randall L. Kennedy, JD,  criticized the mandatory statements, arguing they were counterproductive to addressing social discrimination in academia and posed a challenge to academic freedom.

Not all faculty members are supportive of this change. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, PhD, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School, expressed disappointment, telling CNN it signals a lack of commitment to racial equity and prioritizes conservative comfort.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard’s largest division, includes 40 academic departments and over 10,000 students. This policy change occurs during a tumultuous period at Harvard, marked by protests related to the Israel-Hamas war and the resignation of former President Claudine Gay, who faced plagiarism accusations and controversy over remarks on antisemitism. 

The debate over DEI efforts at Harvard reflects broader national tensions, with other universities also facing backlash over diversity initiatives.