I Hear They Have Some Smart People There

no political litmus tests

We can only hope that this is a sign of things to come, as reported by John Sailer at the Free Press: Harvard Rolls Back DEI.

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)—the largest school within the university, comprising half of all Harvard students—will no longer require “diversity, inclusion, and belonging” statements for faculty hiring. The news, first reported by The Boston Globe, is the latest indicator that elite universities are moving away from the ideological litmus tests that have come to dominate campus.

This follows the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s decision to end the controversial policy entirely, which I first reported on last month. It also comes after Harvard reinstated standardized testing in admissions in April.

A bit of acronymic trivia: although the FP's headline refers to "DEI", Harvard prefers "DIB" for its TLA, "Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging". Aw, belonging! Sounds a little Hallmark-cardish, doesn't it?

In the meantime, the University Near Here sometimes, inconsistently, sticks an extra A into the basic acronym: DEAI, for "Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion". And their web page pictures three students, one in a wheelchair, so there.

But never mind that digression. Greg Lukianoff and Angel Eduardo are adopting a "fine, but…" attitude: Dropping DEI statements is a great start, but ideological litmus tests are the real issue. (And I've swiped their image for the Eye Candy du Jour above.)

However, we want to be very clear that although DEI statements (and the larger DEI bureaucracy on campus) are absolutely threats to free speech, our primary objection is to the larger issue of political litmus tests — and those can come in a variety of flavors and forms. Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act,” for example, was anti-DEI but still a plainly ideological attempt to restrict what students or faculty can say, which is why we sued (and won).

What we need are policies that go after the root of the problem: ideological conformity and pressure that threatens free speech and academic freedom on campus. FIRE drafted model legislation called the Intellectual Freedom Protection Act, which the state of Kansas has already adopted, that singles out political or ideological litmus tests regardless of whether they’re from the right or the left. We’re hopeful that more and more states will come to adopt it, as universities continue to recognize how hamstrung the existing policies have made them in pursuit of their primary mission: fostering an environment where ideas can be voiced, explored, and challenged in search of truth.

And speaking of that, there’s a lot more universities can do to ensure colleges stay on mission — beginning with students.

DEI statements haven’t just been a tool for faculty hiring in recent years. They also play a large role in student admissions for universities. If these schools want to get serious about being oases of free thought, they will have to make some changes to the way they cultivate their student bodies.

The University Near Here uses the Common App for incoming student applications. According to this site ("Writing the Diversity Essay"), its request is pretty anodyne:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I can only recommend cribbing Navin Johnson's opening soliloquy from The Jerk:

My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...

Also of note:

  • What's a small-l libertarian to do? Specifically, in the voting booth come November. We commented on Walter Block's WSJ op-ed last week; now comes Pierre Lemieux, writing at EconLib on Walter Block's “Distance” Recommendation. Block advocated that "swing state" libertarian voters go for Trump. But:

    […] we must not lose sight of a simple but often ignored reality: the tiny probability that an individual vote will be decisive, that it will “swing” anything. It never happened in a presidential election and is unlikely to ever happen. A rational individual will not vote with the intention to change the election’s result. Even if Block’s WSJ piece persuaded 1,000 “swing” libertarians to vote for Trump, any one of them will know that his vote only reduces the hypothesized 1,000-member decisive group to 999. He may prefer to spend his time milking the cows or watching the New York skyline.

    The best a rational voter can do is to vote (or not vote or spoil his ballot) in order to express a moral opinion in favor of the candidate, if there is one, with whom he shares important moral values. (See Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky, Democracy and Decision [Cambridge University Press, 1993].) For a libertarian, these values will be those conducive to the maintenance of a free society. Moral congruence may not look easier to evaluate than issue distance, but at least it chases a real rabbit. This suggests that the best a libertarian voter can do is to vote for the candidate, if there is one, who shows the moral character most representative of what a politician in a truly free society would be (while of course remaining a generally self-interested human being). We should leave some room for reasonable compromise but, at the limit, we may think of the required moral character for a royal president as modeled on the ideal of the head of state in Anthony de Jasay’s “capitalist state.” The less radical might look at the ethics defended by James Buchanan in Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative.

    In this perspective, whoever is a candidate with an acceptable libertarian moral character, if there is one, it is not Donald Trump.

    Succinctly: you may live in a swing state, but you ain't a swing voter.

  • Punish the monkey and let the organ grinder go. David Harsanyi recommends a course of action: Merrick Garland Shouldn't Be Praised. He Should Be Impeached.

    It’s no accident that The Wall Street Journal ran an “exclusive” hagiographic piece on Merrick Garland’s “by-the-book, play-no-favorites approach” the day the attorney general is set to be grilled by Congress. The administration wants to paint the AG as a fair-minded dispenser of justice.

    In truth, while Garland might occasionally — only when faced with no real options — put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable political position, he has regularly weaponized the agency to target the president’s political enemies, from pro-life protesters to concerned parents to presidential candidates.

    Even as I write this, Garland is refusing to hand over audio recordings of Joe Biden’s interviews with former Special Counsel Robert Hur, despite a congressional subpoena. Even as the DOJ stonewalls Congress, it is prosecuting the Republican Party’s presidential candidate for crimes for which the Hur tape supposedly “exonerates” Biden.

    Garland’s claims of executive privilege are risible. If Biden’s audio can be withheld from the public simply because someone somewhere might manipulate the tape using AI, then any audio of any president can be denied the public.

    Harsanyi provides a long list of Garland's other offenses.

    And, in case you're not a Knopfler fan: Headline reference.

  • Ya think? While we're going after misbehaving government employees, Christian Britschgi has one in his sights: Anthony Fauci Gives Misleading, Evasive Answers About NIH-Funded Research at Wuhan Lab.

    In a now-infamous 2021 exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Anthony Fauci—the former longtime head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and former chief medical advisor to the president—said that the National Institutes of Health (which oversees NIAID) "has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology."

    We now know this is not true.

    A treasure trove of documents uncovered by congressional investigators and dogged investigative journalists has established that the NIAID was funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Lab via a grant to the scandal-plagued nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (which the Biden administration just debarred from receiving federal funding).

    These revelations lead to the inescapable conclusion that Fauci was being misleading at best (and dishonest at worst) about the NIH-funded research at Wuhan. It also has fueled eminently reasonable speculation that that research precipitated a lab leak at Wuhan which caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To quote Hawaii CongressCritter Jill Tokuda: "Thank you for your science."

    She apparently did not add: "Can you science me harder?"

  • Counterpoint alert! Speaking of Covid stuff, yesterday we commented favorably on Alina Chan's NYT article Why the Pandemic Probably Started in a Lab, in 5 Key Points. So I should probably give equal time to Scott Sumner, who accuses Chan of Bad reasoning.

    A recent NYT article provides an almost textbook example of how bad reasoning can fuel conspiracy theories. The author claims to provide five pieces of evidence suggesting that Covid escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. In fact, none of the pieces of evidence are at all persuasive, and some are factually inaccurate. Here I’ll focus on the first piece of evidence cited, the inferences that we should draw from the fact that Covid happened in Wuhan.

    The article shows a graph of the “hundreds of large cities” within about 1500 miles of the bat caves where Covid is thought to have originated […]

    Then we are led to believe that it would be an amazing coincidence if Covid were to naturally emerge in the one city in this region that just happened to have a major virology lab.  But is this claim true?

    Sumner goes on to point out that Wuhan is not just a "large city"; it's a megacity. There are far fewer of those.

    Anyway, see what you think.