University of Missouri System scraps diversity statements after Republican legislation

The University of Missouri System is scrapping the use of diversity statements in its hiring practices, announcing on Friday standardized language that leaders can send to prospective employees.

The new practice comes as Republican Missouri lawmakers consider legislation that would ban public colleges from asking job candidates questions about diversity and race.

UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi drafted the new language in an email sent Friday to some faculty members and department chairs at the system’s four campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla.

Choi, in the letter, said the new policy was intended to address concerns that the university was requiring job applicants to fill out “loyalty oaths” or “litmus tests.” Both phrases have been adopted by Republican lawmakers to criticize the diversity statements.

Instead of using Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statements, university leaders will now send a “values commitment” to job applicants, the email said.

The commitment would read:

“We value the uniqueness of every individual and strive to ensure each person’s success. Contributions from individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives promote intellectual pluralism and enable us to achieve the excellence that we seek in learning, research and engagement. This commitment makes our university a better place to work, learn and innovate.

In your application materials, please discuss your experiences and expertise that support these values and enrich our missions of teaching, research and engagement.”

Choi said the university did not use diversity statements in its hiring practices, but pointed to some job postings that “contained information that may give some readers the impression that such a request was inferred.” Choi’s email also said the system would not longer use a diversity faculty hiring rubric that was created in 2018.

For example, a job posting for an MU visiting assistant professor of sociology requires applicants to submit a DEI statement “addressing contributions to diversity and inclusivity through teaching and service.”

Christian Basi, an MU spokesperson, told The Star on Friday that the university regularly reviews its hiring practices “and upon a recent review, felt that we needed some consistency as it relates to this topic.”

The policy affects the entire UM System and is effective immediately, he said.

The move from the university comes one week after Mizzou employees and students told The Star that they worried banning diversity statements would further threaten efforts to attract and retain diverse candidates.

While MU has made efforts to add more diverse faculty members, progress has been slow. As of 2022, Black employees make up a dismal 3.7% of the university’s ranked professional faculty compared to 67.5% white.