Newsletter: Are DEI Mandates for University Faculties a Bad Idea?

Are DEI Mandates for University Faculties a Bad Idea Open to Debate


Randall L. Kennedy
Professor at Harvard Law School


Brian Soucek
Law Professor and Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California, Davis



Here is what we have in store this week:

We debate whether DEI mandate statements reward a professor’s actions or infringe on their freedom of speech

A closer look at how supportive Americans are of DEI initiatives at colleges

Your Sunday reading list



DEI, or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is a framework that universities have been prioritizing in recent years. For university faculty, DEI mandate statements are included in hiring and promotion decisions and in the tenure process. Though some say they are well intended, others wonder if these statements undermine the principles of free speech on America’s campuses.

What’s included in a DEI mandate? Professors need to write a detailed statement that demonstrates someone’s knowledge of challenges related to encouraging DEI standards, explains their track record for encouraging diversity inside and outside their classroom, and discuss what they will do to encourage DEI’s values within their department and community.

What’s the issue? Some professors and academic organizations are concerned these mandates devalue merit-based evaluation by their peers, punishes professors who aren’t seen as “doing enough,” and infringes upon their freedom of speech. Others push back and say if DEI is a part of the school’s mission and values, then it’s fair to be asked about it.

This week, we debate the question: Are DEI Mandates for University Faculties? Arguing YES is Harvard Law School professor Randall L. Kennedy, who is joining us for the third time on our program and whose research has focused on the intersections of race and institutions. Arguing NO is Brian Soucek, a law professor at the University of California, Davis who teaches courses on antidiscrimination law and had, until recently, served on the University of California’s Committee on Academic Freedom.

Stream this episode now as a podcast or listen on our YouTube channel and join the debate on our website. As always, tell us what you think.



Democrats and Younger Americans Are More Supportive of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives at Colleges and Universities









Are DEI Mandates for University Faculties A Bad Idea?



“We have a notion of what academics do… what academics do ought not to include pledging allegiance to some sort of agenda, even an agenda that I like. As a person who embraces much of what animates the DEI project, I am quite against this mandated requirement. Why? Because it poses a risk to freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of learning on our campuses. Those freedoms should be at the very top of what universities ought to be protecting”

Randall L. Kennedy



“It’s actually inspiring to see what people put in their diversity statements. When they talk about ways that they have identified shortcomings in their teaching, for example. When they realize they haven’t diversified the set of examples they’re using, the type of cases they’re assigning, because they have this nudge… to be thoughtful about whether they’re reaching a diverse set of students and whether they’re taking DEI values into account when they think about how they want to teach their class.”

Brian Soucek




What Most American Schools Do Wrong
Adam Grant | October 22, 2023
The New York Times
Watch Adam’s conversation on the power of debate and knowing what you don’t know



Colleges and universities shouldn’t be in the business of making political statements
Beth Aker and Joe Pitts | October 27, 2023
Deseret News
Watch Beth’s debate on whether America should forgive student debt



If We’re Addicted to Technology, What’s the Cure?
Katherine Mangu-Ward | October 28, 2023
Watch Katherine’s debate on whether economic growth costs too much



America Is Lucky That Biden’s in Charge
Michael McFaul | October 25, 2023
The Atlantic
Watch Michael’s debate on whether we should isolate Russia


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