Walters: UC Imposes Political Litmus Test
If you’ve never heard of the Levering Act, you’re not alone.
Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover led crusades to root out what they claimed was widespread infiltration by communists.
California had its own version of McCarthyism, as it came to be known. The Legislature created a Committee on Un-American Activities and in 1950 enacted the Levering Act, requiring all state employees to sign “loyalty oaths.”
It was specifically aimed at the University of California’s faculty, and 31 tenured professors were fired for refusing to sign it.
The state was unconstitutionally imposing “a political test for employment,” as the California State Federation of Teachers said at the time. And after much legal wrangling, the state Supreme Court voted 6-1 in 1967 to declare the Levering Act unconstitutional.
UC Also Requires Applicants to Submit Diversity Statements
Although UC’s Board of Regents officially declares that “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee,” a new UC policy seems to be doing exactly that.
As part of its “commitment to diversity and excellence,” UC’s administrators are telling recruiters for faculty positions, as one directive puts it, to take “pro-active steps to seek out candidates committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
To enforce that dictum, UC also requires applicants for new faculty employment and promotions to submit “diversity statements” that will be scored “with rubrics provided by Academic Affairs and require applicants to achieve a scoring cutoff to be considered.”
The academic affairs department at UC-Davis says that diversity statements from tenure-track faculty applicants should have “an accomplished track record…of teaching, research or service activities addressing the needs of African-American, Latino, Chicano, Hispanic and Native American students or communities.” Their statements must “indicate awareness” of those communities and “the negative consequences of underutilization” and “provide a clearly articulated vision” of how their work at UC-Davis would advance diversity policies.
Jeffrey Flier, former director of the Harvard Medical School, is among the respected academics who see the inherent contradictions and perils in UC’s one-size-fits-all concept of political correctness.
Making the Overwhelmingly Liberal UC Faculty Even Less Ideologically Diverse
“As a supporter of the original goals of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, my skepticism toward this policy surprised a number of friends and colleagues,” Flier wrote this year in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“But it is entirely inappropriate to require diversity statements in the process of appointment and promotion. Such requirements risk introducing a political litmus test into faculty hiring and reviews.”
They’ve already arisen at UC, implicitly denying employment or promotion for anyone who fails to enthusiastically endorse “diversity,” however that might be defined.
In the name of “diversity,” therefore, the new litmus test would make the overwhelmingly liberal UC faculty even less ideologically diverse.
CalMatters is a public-interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.