Updated May 22nd, 2024 at 17:20 IST

Cornell Used 'Diversity' Policies to Reject Non-Conforming Faculty Candidates, says Report

The Free Speech Alliance's analysis is based on whistle-blower documents and internal reports provided by Cornell staff members.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
Cornell University | Image:AP

Cornell University is facing allegations that it is undermining its science, math, and engineering programs by using its "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" (DEI) policy to reject a significant number of faculty job candidates whose views do not align with the school's perceived ideological stance. According to a report from The New York Post, these claims come from the Cornell Free Speech Alliance, a merit-based campus advocacy group, which reviewed leaked documents to support its assertions.

According to the report by the Cornell Free Speech Alliance, the university used DEI statements to eliminate 21% of applicants in a recent faculty search in a hard science field. This occurred despite Cornell no longer requiring candidates to submit explanations of how they would advance the university's DEI principles. The group alleges that these forms were still used to reject candidates without properly considering their academic credentials, research, or teaching abilities.


Here is what you need to know

The Free Speech Alliance's analysis is based on whistle-blower documents and internal reports provided by Cornell staff members. The group argues that the DEI policy is discriminatory and should be abolished.


Is Cornell risking lawsuits? 

“Cornell has an opportunity to reverse course and demonstrate principled leadership by loudly and publicly abolishing these pernicious DEI policies,” said Carl Neuss, a board member of the Free Speech Alliance and a Cornell alum. He added, “Without major reforms, Cornell faces increasing risk of legal jeopardy, reputational damage, and loss of academic legitimacy. We urge the university to act before it’s too late.”


Cornell discriminating on the basis of race and age?

The internal documents also reveal that Cornell used demographic factors such as race and age to favor certain candidates over others. The report criticizes this approach, stating, “DEI is NOT levelling the playing field’ to fully include underrepresented groups – but, instead, is heavily tilting’ the playing field in favour of faculty candidates possessing preferred demographic characteristics and viewpoints.”


The group is of the view that DEI hiring practices are "corrupting" academic fields that should be free from political ideology, such as the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Cornell prefers people who conform? 

“By placing such socio-political loyalty pledges before academic excellence in assessing applicant qualifications, the faculty hiring process has become badly distorted and educational quality has been seriously degraded at Cornell,” the group’s study states. The group also claims that this practice of enforcing "viewpoint conformity" is widespread across various academic fields.

In a related development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced that it will no longer require prospective professors to write statements on how they would promote DEI as part of their employment process. This move might indicate a shift in how such policies are viewed in academic hiring practices.


The situation at Cornell highlights the ongoing debate over the role of DEI policies in higher education and their impact on academic standards and free speech.


Published May 22nd, 2024 at 17:19 IST