By: Sean Stevens, HxA Research Director & HxA member Debra Mashek of Harvey Mudd College

(This is the first in a two-part post about the policies and practices of colleges and universities vis a vis ideological non-discrimination and inclusivity.  In this post, we examine the non-discrimination statements of the schools featured in our Guide to Colleges to see how often such statements mention political diversity. In part 2, we examine actual job ads.)

Non-discrimination statements and policies are a standard practice of American colleges and universities.  Regardless of institution type, these statements typically adopt similar language and identify a number of protected classes/social categories.  For instance, below is the form a typical non-discrimination statement takes:

In compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal, state, and local laws, [Insert name of college or university here] does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, or veteran status in any phase of its employment process, in any phase of its admission or financial aid programs, or other aspects of its educational programs or activities.

In 2014 the University of Colorado conducted an undergraduate student social climate survey to examine a variety of student experiences on campus.  According to the survey’s executive summary, the University of Colorado, at the time, was “unique in that it recognizes political affiliation and political philosophy as protected characteristics under the Laws of the Regents” (p. 8).  This prompted us to investigate if the University of Colorado was still unique in naming political affiliation in its policy, or if other schools had since adopted policies that protect against discrimination based on this social category.

We conducted this search in a single week in late October 2017 and limited our investigation to the colleges and universities that are included in our Guide to Colleges.  Thus, our investigation included the Top 150 National Universities and the Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges, as per the 2017 rankings by US News and World Report.  Due to a tie in the rankings, this sample of colleges and universities contained a total of 201 colleges and universities.

The results of our investigation revealed that 17 of these 201 colleges and universities (8.46%) have non-discrimination policies that include political affiliation.  Sixteen of these schools were from the Top 150 National Universities (10.6%) and one (Colby College; HxA Score = 29) was from the Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges (2%).  We list the 16 universities from the Top 150 below, their HxA score in our Guide to Colleges, and link to their non-discrimination policy:

We note that the average HxA score for these 16 schools was 54, compared to an average of 45 for the Top 150 National Universities, and an overall average HxA score of 42 for all of the schools included in the Guide to Colleges.  Examples of some of these statements are presented below (emphasis added):

University of Colorado: The University of Colorado does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, or political philosophy in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educational programs and activities.

University of Florida: The University is committed to non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations, genetic information and veteran status as protected under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act.  This commitment applies in all areas to students, Academic Personnel (AP), Technical, Executive, Administrative, and Managerial Support (TEAMS) staff, University Support Personnel System (USPS) personnel, and Other Personnel Services (OPS) employees.

College of William and Mary: Unless otherwise constrained by law, William & Mary is committed to providing an environment for its students, employees and others present within the community that is free from discrimination based on any personal factor unrelated to qualifications or performance.  Such “irrelevant personal factors” include (without limitation) race or color, citizenship, national origin or ethnicity, ancestry, religion or creed, political affiliation or belief, age, sex or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, marital status, pregnancy status, parental status, height, weight, military service, veteran status, caretaker status, or family medical or genetic information.

Case Western Reserve University: Case Western Reserve University does not discriminate in recruitment, employment, or policy administration on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, or status as a disabled veteran or other protected veteran under U.S. federal law.

The majority of colleges and universities typically acknowledge that they follow state and federal anti-discrimination laws, which specify a number of protected classes.  Political affiliation/belief are not considered a protected class under federal law.

Thus, on the one hand, we are happy to praise the small number of colleges and universities that include political affiliation (or variations on that term) in their non-discrimination policy.  Yet, on the other hand, we consider the overall findings disappointing.  We recommend that all institutions–at least those that do not in fact discriminate on this category–consider adopting such a policy.  At the very least, asking questions about the absence of political orientation language in non-discrimination policies may increase awareness that a conversation is needed.

And, as we discuss in Part 2 of this post, most of those institutions that do have such a policy fail to mention it in their job ads for faculty positions.


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