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State Board of Education moves to ban diversity statements for job applicants

James Dawson

The Idaho State Board of Education is taking steps to ban four-year colleges and universities from requiring applicants submit a diversity statement as a condition of being hired.

The resolution passed unanimously Tuesday afternoon. In part, it states, “…the use of written diversity statements to evaluate candidates for hire may result in employment decisions based on factors other than one’s own merit.”

Only one question came from the state’s top education policy group. Board President Kurt Liebich asked if this policy would also apply to job interviews.

“For those types of roles where your role is improving the diversity of our student body, I think it would be in those cases appropriate to ask about what experience you have in diversity,” Liebich said.

Chief Academic Officer TJ Bliss eased those concerns.

“There would be no prohibition on having conversations relevant to a job about any of these topics that might show up in a diversity statement. This is about asking for a written statement affirming certain principles,” Bliss said.

While board members approved the resolution, staff must draft legal language for them to adopt by their August meeting.

State lawmakers raised the concerns about these mandatory diversity statements several times this past legislative session. They said universities should be searching for the most qualified candidate, regardless of their familiarity with implementing or supporting diversity, equity and inclusion principles.

Briefing materials given to state board members prior to the meeting said faculty at institutions elsewhere in the U.S. have raised First Amendment concerns about requiring applicants to submit such statements prior to being hired.

The Chronicle for Higher Education reported last month that one state and several large universities have begun to ban or have already banned these requirements.

A 2022 survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech nonprofit, found faculty at four-year higher ed institutes in the U.S. are evenly split on the question of whether diversity statements are a justifiable requirement.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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