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Hiring in Higher Ed: Do Job Ads Signal a Desire for Viewpoint Diversity?

This is the second 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 current job ads for direct evidence that hiring campuses seek out and celebrate viewpoint diversity. See Part 1 here.
Hiring committees and campus administrators carefully craft academic job ads to signal institutional needs, interests, and values. Before they are made public, job ads are generally approved by the home department and the academic dean or provost. Some institutions also involve human resource officers and, increasingly, campus diversity officers who weigh in to ensure the ad makes clear that the institution welcomes and celebrates diversity. Job ads are thus highly curated documents that provide potential applicants a lens into the values of the hiring institution. In addition to telling applicants a good deal about the scholarly interests sought and the expectations of the position, they also signal who is welcome on campus. We sought to evaluate whether ideological diversity was among the types of diversities signaled in job ads as valued by colleges and universities. Our Approach. As summarized in Part 1, 16 of the top 150 national universities and one of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the US News and World Report rankings have policies that protect against discrimination based on political orientation. During a single week in late November 2017, we visited individual campus’s human resource websites, selected the first ad that appeared on each site for a faculty position (regardless of discipline, rank, and contract type), and evaluated the ad for (1) the presence of non-discrimination language that mentions political orientation, (2) the presence of language that signaled campus viewpoint diversity as a value, and (3) the relative location of such language in the ad (e.g., top, middle, bottom). We included in our sample all 17 institutions named in Part 1 as having political non-discrimination policies. In addition, we used a random number generator to select 171 additional schools from the US News and World Report rankings (16 from the Top 150 national universities and 1 from the Top 50 liberal arts colleges). All of the institutions included in the sample are conducting at least one faculty search this Fall; thus, there are no missing data in our sample. What did We Learn? Of the 17 institutions that have political non-discrimination in their institutional policies, only 3 of their job ads mention non-discrimination based on political orientation. In all 3 instances, this mention appears at the bottom of the ad. These statements were:
American University: “The university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information or any other bases under federal or local laws (collectively “Protected Bases”) in its programs and activities.”
University of Maryland College Park: “The University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, physical or mental disability, protected veteran status, age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, creed, marital status, political affiliation, personal appearance, or on the basis of rights secured by the First Amendment, in all aspects of employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.”
Virginia Tech: “Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, or veteran status; or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees, or applicants; or any other basis protected by law.”
The University of Iowa indicates that “associational preferences” are likewise a protected category, though it is ambiguous what that label includes. The University of Iowa language reads: All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration of employment free from discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, religion, associational preference, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or status as a protected veteran. The University of Iowa is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.” None of the ads from the randomly selected institutions–those that do not have a political non-discrimination policy on the books–mention political affiliation. Surprisingly, none of the ads in the full sample of 34 indicate that diversity of political ideology or orientation was a valued feature of the campus community. That is, beyond merely saying that an institution is non-discriminating (which is a moral and legal issue), none of the ads say that they actively welcome and seek out out viewpoint diversity (which is an aspiration for a better community). As an exception, we would like to give a shout out to Claremont McKenna College. One of us (Mashek) knows CMC well because her home campus is likewise one of the Claremont Colleges. While CMC’s institutional policies do not include mention of political orientation (and thus CMC does not appear on the list in Part 1), the college has affirmed the Chicago Principles. More relevant to this current post, although the version of the faculty search ad that appears on the college’s HR site does not mention viewpoint diversity, many of their ads that get posted to disciplinary sites do. For example, the following text appears in their public policy/administration ad posted at
“Given our commitment to cultivating a challenging and inclusive educational environment, we seek candidates who can demonstrate a commitment to teaching, mentoring, and inspiring students representing a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds, political opinions, genders, races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, and religions.”
Recommendations. While we applaud those colleges and universities that explicitly include political non-discrimination in their policies, our analysis suggests there is work to be done in translating those policies into hiring practices, beginning with the language in job ads. Heterodox Academy offers the following recommendations:
  1. At a minimum, those colleges and universities that include political non-discrimination in their institutional policies should also to do so in their job ads.
  2. Ideally, all institutions–at least those that do not in fact discriminate on this category–will adopt such policies and will signal their existence in job ads.
Beyond saying that our institutions don’t discriminate based on political ideology, we recommend using job ads to signal to the outside world–including to stellar applicants of all stripes–that campuses seek out and celebrate such diversity. Such signals are important because campuses that do wish to welcome all scholars will be better able to attract a diverse and talented applicant pool, and because colleges that successfully recruit such diversity into their faculties will be better able to create the optimum environment for teaching, learning, and discovery. Thus, our final recommendation: 3. Include in job ads language that explicitly signals that viewpoint diversity is welcomed and celebrated. Colleges and universities may use the template language below to signal that they value viewpoint diversity:
We enthusiastically welcome applications from talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. values diversity of perspectives, including those held by people from different racial, religious, ideological, ethnic and geographic backgrounds.
We are interested in collecting examples of job ads that explicitly signal viewpoint diversity is sought after and celebrated. Please share your examples and suggestions in the comments or email examples to Sean Stevens. 1 = The 17 randomly selected schools without a political non-discrimination policy were:
  • University of Southern California
  • Villanova University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Stony Brook University
  • University of St. Thomas
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Lehigh University
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence)
  • University of San Francisco
  • Ohio University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Cincinnati
  • The New School
  • Marquette University
  • Hofstra University
  • SUNY Albany
  • Bucknell University (Top 50 liberal arts colleges)

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