Arizona Public Universities Secure Big Win For Free Speech

Arizona’s public universities have taken a significant step forward in the fight for free speech, as they no longer require “diversity statements” on their job applications. This move, heralded as a major triumph by advocates of the First Amendment, marks a notable change in the hiring practices of the state’s higher education institutions.

For some time, a substantial portion of faculty job postings across Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University mandated that applicants provide diversity statements as a prerequisite for employment.

Earlier this year, the conservative Goldwater Institute brought attention to this requirement, revealing that a staggering 81% of job postings demanded a diversity statement, according to the Institute’s report.

In a surprising twist, the Arizona university system occasionally required prospective job seekers to replace their conventional cover letters with diversity statements. Furthermore, candidates were expected to submit two full pages explaining their activism or dedication to diversity.

At times, applicants were even encouraged to endorse progressive concepts such as “intersectional personal identities.” Thankfully, a transformative shift has occurred as the public universities have chosen to eliminate the need for DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) statements in their job postings.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which exercises governance over the state’s public university system, clarified that while the board and state schools had never explicitly required DEI statements, certain university departments might have included such requests in job applications.

Nevertheless, the Board of Regents asserted that “the universities have discontinued any requests for such statements in job applications.” While some job applications containing DEI statement requests may still linger online, the universities are diligently working to update these postings and remove the DEI statement requirement.

The Goldwater Institute has argued that demanding diversity statements contravenes the First Amendment as well as Arizona’s state Constitution. In the Arizona Constitution, it is stipulated that “no religious or political test or qualification shall ever be required as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state, as teacher, student, or pupil.”

The removal of diversity statements from job applications is being hailed as an immense victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment. Jonathan Butcher, Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute, added that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and statements do not foster genuine free expression or a more diverse range of perspectives.

He highlighted that the foundational principles of DEI are entrenched in critical race theory — a viewpoint criticized for its racially discriminatory perspective. The debate surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) content has intensified not only in university courses but also in K-12 public education.

Several other states have followed suit in scrapping DEI statements for public university job applications. In a move aimed at preserving free expression, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed a bill in April banning diversity statements, along with DEI offices in the state’s higher education institutions.

Similarly, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed legislation in May that not only prohibited diversity statements but also curtailed state and federal funding for DEI programs at state universities.

The University of Missouri system took the lead in March, eliminating diversity statements from its hiring practices, shortly after North Carolina implemented its ban.