by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Writing at City Jounal, John D. Sailer reports:
Last month, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees passed a resolution reaffirming the Chicago Principles on free expression and adopting the Kalven Committee Report on institutional neutrality. In doing so, UNC became the first institution other than the University of Chicago to adopt both sets of principles, which together provide an unequivocal articulation of the value of academic freedom. Such a statement should prompt us to ask: What’s next? How will this newly clarified commitment to academic freedom play out?
According to Sailor, it’s not playing out the way one would hope:
Mandatory diversity statements are widespread at UNC. The most egregious example comes from the university’s school of medicine. In 2020, the medical school convened its “Task Force for Integrating Social Justice Into the Curriculum,” which released a report outlining dozens of recommendations. These included requiring students to develop “advocacy skills” (the report even listed the political causes for which students should advocate), requiring faculty to adhere to “core concepts of anti-racism,” and revising the school’s promotion and tenure guidelines to “include a social justice domain required for promotion.”
The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has also jumped on board. As I reported in January, the school recently updated its promotion and tenure manual to “strengthen recognition for anti-racist and equity-focused research, practice, service, teaching and mentoring.” The school’s Anti-Racist Planning Guide for Public Health Pedagogy gives some indication of what “anti-racist” research and teaching might involve—making such outlandish proclamations as “we have all been colonized and socialized in a white supremacist system” and “anti-fatness is deeply tied to anti-Blackness and is pervasive in public health research, policy and practice.”
More broadly, the university clearly supports the use of diversity statements in hiring. Recently, I reviewed all the current faculty listings on the UNC website, 19 of which required diversity statements. From the Department of Chemistry to the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, applicants are expected to outline their commitment to the cause. Thus, applicants for a role in the Department of Genetics and Psychiatry must submit a statement that describes their “track record of engagement and activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as a vision of how their work at UNC will continue to support this mission.”
It’s a shame UNC doesn’t have the courage of its convictions.