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Harvard’s Largest Faculty Division Will No Longer Require Diversity Statements

U.S.Harvard’s Largest Faculty Division Will No Longer Require Diversity Statements

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest division, said on Monday that it would no longer require job applicants to submit diversity statements, the latest shift at the university after months of turmoil over its values and the role of equity initiatives in higher education.

Instead, the division will require only finalists for teaching jobs to describe their “efforts to strengthen academic communities” and discuss how they would promote a “learning environment in which students are encouraged to ask questions and share their ideas,” Nina Zipser, the dean for faculty affairs and planning, said in an email to colleagues.

The decision represents a sharp break from Harvard’s recent practices and comes less than six months after Claudine Gay, Harvard’s first Black president and a former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, resigned amid accusations of plagiarism and complaints that Harvard was doing too little to combat antisemitism. The chaos surrounding Dr. Gay intensified debates about the sway of diversity initiatives in academia.

Dr. Zipser made no mention of Dr. Gay in her announcement on Monday morning. Rather, Dr. Zipser attributed the change to feedback from “numerous faculty members” who feared that diversity statements were “too narrow in the information they attempted to gather and relied on terms that, for many, especially international candidates, were difficult to interpret.”

In a statement that echoed Dr. Zipser’s email, Harvard said the “updated approach” would acknowledge “the many ways faculty contribute to strengthening their academic communities, including efforts to increase diversity, inclusion, and belonging.” The university added that the decision amounted to “realigning the hiring process with longstanding criteria for tenured and tenure-track faculty positions.”

Last month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it would no longer require diversity statements, which some academic departments had chosen to seek. M.I.T.’s president, Sally Kornbluth, said at the time that the university could “build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work.”

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