Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: “Diversity” Requirement for Faculty Assessment Violates Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience

Category: Freedom of Conscience
Schools: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Since Virginia Tech first rescinded its ideological litmus test for faculty in its liberal arts college under pressure from FIRE, the school has slowly been making progress toward intellectual freedom. Most recently, Virginia Tech removed a politicized elaboration of “diversity accomplishments” from its university-wide tenure and promotion guidelines. A separate document still contains the diversity guidelines, however. The university also has yet to retract its demands that faculty demonstrate such “diversity accomplishments” when seeking raises, tenure, or promotion. These demands violate faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom by politicizing the consideration of their teaching, scholarship, and personal development activities.























    • Critics challenge diversity language in Virginia Tech’s tenure policy

      August 7, 2013

      by Robin Wilson The Chronicle of Higher Education   Virginia Tech has come under criticism from some outside groups for a set of new guidelines that, the critics say, appear to require faculty members to show a commitment to diversity as part of their bids for tenure and promotion. The critics, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, say the guidelines establish a “loyalty oath” that violates professors’ academic freedom. The guidelines at issue govern faculty members in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. They say that a promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to […]

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    • Diversity’s role in tenure questioned

      August 7, 2013

      by Riley Prendergast CollegiateTimes.com This is the first installment in a three part series regarding Virginia Tech’s new policies and plans to focus on diversity in the institution. Related: FIRE’s letter, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences guidelines After sustaining brief but spirited criticism in regard to the role of diversity in professors’ tenure hearings within the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech is exploring ways to clarify the language used regarding the role diversity initiatives play in the faculty selection process. As the guidelines stand in a March 9 draft for promotion and tenure review, […]

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    • University should not pressure faculty to alter their research

      October 14, 2009

      Virginia Tech is trying to walk a fine line when it promotes “diversity” as strongly as possible. Unfortunately, the university often crosses the line when it coerces faculty members to conform to the university’s “diversity” mission. Last month, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sent the university’s Board of Visitors a 15-page letter with with 13 enclosures demonstrating that the university administration has, over the past few years, persistently increased pressure on faculty members to alter their research, teaching and personal development activities in order to show “diversity accomplishments.” FIRE has no position on the university’s diversity […]

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    • Virginia Tech, Round 2: Staging Diversity

      April 27, 2009

      Just weeks after the president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) ordered the provost to cancel a controversial policy, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is maneuvering to reinstate it.   The discarded policy made tenure and promotion contingent on a faculty member’s demonstrated loyalty to a “diversity” dogma.  The new policy appears set to do much the same thing-but to hide this intent behind a wall of academic jargon.                 Avowing that, “our commitment to equity and inclusive excellence has never been stronger,” Dean Sue Ott Rowlands, says the College’s “soon-to-be-unveiled strategic […]

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    • U.S. Universities: Education or Indoctrination?

      April 27, 2009

      It’s difficult to find anyone to publicly admit they believe our nation’s institutions of higher education should not serve as free marketplaces of ideas, where any and all topics can be openly discussed. After all, such an opinion runs counter to the basic nature of the university ideal and would be massively unpopular with the public. Nobody wants to think that he or she is paying for his or her children to be indoctrinated rather than educated. Unfortunately, on campuses across the country, the line between indoctrination and education is being blurred and ignored on a daily basis. Even more […]

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    • A diversity step too far

      April 19, 2009

      Even in the age of Obama, race and other issues related to inclusiveness continue to confound officials at many of the nation’s universities. Virginia Tech is a prime example, where well-meaning officials made the mistake of appearing to require professors to show an “active involvement in diversity” for promotion and consideration for tenure in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. They should have known better than to step on this third rail in academia. As a member of a minority group and as a former college teacher, I wish the Virginia Tech folks had used better judgment and […]

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    • Virginia Tech drops diversity requirement from tenure policy

      April 15, 2009

      The president of Virginia Tech has asked the provost to remove from the university’s new guidelines on tenure and promotion a requirement that professors show an “active involvement in diversity,” which some conservative groups had criticized as a violation of academic freedom. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and other groups had complained that the condition amounted to a political litmus test and that it had nothing to do with professors’ academic accomplishments. It did not belong, they said, in guidelines on tenure and promotion. The foundation, which is known as FIRE, wrote to Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech’s […]

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    • Virginia reviews diversity rule

      April 12, 2009

      The Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech announced last week that it would review the university’s tenure and diversity policies after claims by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that academic freedom was under threat.” Promoting one’s own view of diversity is one thing but making narrowly defined and politicised views about diversity an ideological requirement for faculty members is quite another,” FIRE* President Greg Lukianoff said. “Political litmus tests have no place in higher education and the Board of Visitors must help defend individual conscience and academic freedom at Virginia Tech.” Lukianoff claimed that over the past three […]

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    • Commitment to diversity as a job requirement

      March 27, 2009

      This week in The Chronicle, Robin Wilson has a story on the “diversity” factor in tenure and promotion guidelines at Virginia Tech. According to the guidelines, the promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to demonstrate the candidate’s active involvement in diversity.” The provost at Virginia Tech claims that the guideline does not “require” professors to join diversity activities, but only “encourages” them to do so. The diversity criterion goes back to a few years ago, he adds, when the university wanted to make sure that people who did pursue diversity activities were valued for their efforts. This is a […]

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    • Suitable for framing

      March 26, 2009

      Last week, NAS wrote about how Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has made “diversity” service a requirement for faculty promotion and tenure. There, we showed that   “Diversity” is not a category of academic accomplishment equivalent to high-quality teaching or success in scholarly research and publishing. “Diversity” is an ideology. The term summarizes a set of objectives popular on one part of the political spectrum. Virginia Tech, which is a public university, has no business turning a partisan political credo into a test that must be passed for faculty members to win tenure or to advance in rank.   The promotion and […]

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    • Why can’t students say ‘guns’ in school?

      August 7, 2013

      by Glenn Garvin Miami Herald   Media snicker of the day: those crazy gun nuts, worried that the government is out to snatch their constitutional rights along with their AK-47s. 60 Minutes is the latest to have a chuckle, playing a commercial for a Washington, D.C.-area firearms show that that urges viewers to “Celebrate the Second Amendment and get your guns while you still can!” My own hunch is that the sheer number of Americans who own guns (the low estimate is something over 40 million) will keep their Second Amendment rights off the endangered-species list for the foreseeable future. […]

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    • ‘The Diversity Religion at Virginia Tech’

      October 28, 2009

      “Pushing professors to conform to any set of beliefs is inappropriate,” writes Carey Stronach, president of the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS), in a very good article yesterday for the Pope Center’s Clarion Call. Stronach writes about FIRE’s case at Virginia Tech, where professors have been increasingly pressured to demonstrate “diversity accomplishments” when being assessed for the quality of their work. Diversity sounds like a lofty goal. Who (this side of the Ku Klux Klan) is opposed to diversity? Who still favors excluding people just because of race or other innate characteristics? Those of us who marched with Dr. King in […]

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    • Mandatory ‘Diversity Accomplishments’ at Virginia Tech Violate Faculty Rights; FIRE Details Violations in 15-page Letter to Board of Visitors

      September 16, 2009

      FIRE has sent Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors a 15-page letter with 13 enclosures detailing how administrators have begun to demand “diversity accomplishments” from faculty members across the university over the past several years. Professors are expected to alter their own research, teaching, and personal intellectual development in order to prove their loyalty to Virginia Tech’s political agenda. Those who lack the right “diversity accomplishments” will see diminished career prospects, including for tenure and promotion. FIRE is calling on the Virginia Tech’s board to rescind the coercive elements of its diversity agenda. In FIRE’s September 14, 2009, letter to John R. Lawson, […]

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    • Bit by Bit, Virginia Tech Softens Ideological ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Faculty; Much More To Be Done for Freedom of Conscience

      July 8, 2009

      After Virginia Tech rescinded its ideological litmus test for faculty (pending further review) in its liberal arts college under pressure from FIRE, the school has recently removed a long, ominous explanation of “diversity accomplishments” from its university-wide tenure and promotion guidelines. A separate document still contains the diversity guidelines, however. The university also has yet to retract its demands that faculty demonstrate such “diversity accomplishments” when seeking raises, tenure, or promotion. These demands violate faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom by politicizing the consideration of their teaching, scholarship, and personal development activities, forcing them to demonstrate allegiance to […]

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    • FIRE’s Letter to the Editor of ‘The Roanoke Times’

      May 18, 2009

      Last week, I discussed the inaccuracies and distortions contained in an editorial published by The Roanoke Times attacking FIRE. Specifically, the paper dismissed FIRE’s concerns about the constitutionality of Virginia Tech’s proposed guidelines for evaluating candidates for promotion and tenure, labeling FIRE a “conservative group that oppose[s] campus diversity efforts across the country.” In addition to discussing the significant problems with the editorial here on The Torch, I also penned a letter to the Times‘ editors, correcting their misapprehensions. Unfortunately, the paper has failed to publish our letter, thus denying us the opportunity to set the record straight. We are […]

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    • Getting it Wrong: ‘Roanoke Times’ Editorial Mischaracterizes FIRE and Problems with Virginia Tech’s Diversity Requirements

      May 13, 2009

      An editorial in today’s edition of The Roanoke Times attacks FIRE for criticizing Virginia Tech’s proposed hiring guidelines for evaluating candidates for promotion and tenure. The guidelines, now withdrawn, would have required candidates to demonstrate a commitment to an abstract, ideologically loaded concept—”diversity”—that means many different things to different people. While perhaps well-intentioned, imposing the guidelines would have meant that regardless of their own beliefs, candidates would have had to pledge allegiance to the school’s conception of “diversity,” or risk losing their job or promotion. As we’ve explained at length in this space and in our letter to VT, that’s […]

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    • At Tech, an ideological dispute over diversity

      May 9, 2009

      A letter from Virginia Tech’s president reaffirming the university’s commitment to diversity has reignited an ideological dispute over political correctness on campus. Tech officials last month backed away from a proposed policy that critics said tied promotion and tenure to participation in diversity initiatives. An array of mostly conservative organizations had lobbied against the guidelines, calling them an affront to academic freedom and a political litmus test for promotion. Tech maintained the proposal had been mischaracterized by off-campus groups. But the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said it took up the cause at the request of a tenure-track faculty […]

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    • FIRE Critic on ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Blog Acknowledges Error

      May 8, 2009

      I reported on April 16 that University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson Jr. had attacked FIRE in a blog entry published on The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Brainstorm, over FIRE’s successful efforts to keep Virginia Tech from violating its faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom. Jackson had erroneously stated that FIRE would “reject any and all nods to affirmative action or other diversity initiatives” and had averred that “Maybe FIRE’s hidden concern is that ‘active involvement in diversity’ could serve as another way of justifying tenure to otherwise undeserving minority scholars.” In fact, FIRE has never […]

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    • FIRE Attacked on ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Blog over Virginia Tech

      April 16, 2009

      University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson Jr. has attacked FIRE in a blog entry published on The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Brainstorm, over FIRE’s successful efforts to keep Virginia Tech from violating its faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom. FIRE is used to criticism from all corners of the political arena. Indeed, we view much of this criticism as evidence that we’re doing our job effectively. But Jackson’s attack warrants response because it unfairly distorts our concerns with Virginia Tech’s pressure on faculty candidates for promotion and tenure to demonstrate a commitment to “diversity.” First, Jackson […]

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    • Victory at Virginia Tech: Good News Travels Fast

      April 15, 2009

      News of FIRE’s victory for freedom of conscience at Virginia Tech has been spreading quickly—unsurprising, given the proposed “diversity” requirement’s chilling implications for the academic freedom of the Virginia Tech faculty. The Chronicle of Higher Education is among the publications to report on Virginia Tech President Charles Steger’s decision to rescind the requirement, which had been roundly criticized by FIRE, the National Association of Scholars, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and Virginia Tech’s own student paper, The Collegiate Times, among others. The Richmond Times-Dispatch should be pleased to hear the news as well, having published a good editorial […]

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    • FIRE Co-founder Commends Virginia Tech President for Withdrawing Ideological Litmus Test

      April 15, 2009

      FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Alan Charles Kors e-mailed the president of Virginia Tech last night to commend him on his school’s decision to withdraw its ideological “diversity” requirements for promotion and tenure.  Alan writes: Dear President Steger, You have intervened where it is most appropriate, to preserve and protect the most cherished of freedoms:  freedom of conscience and belief.  It is frightening that individuals, however well-intentioned, thought to coerce ideological uniformity, but it is a wonderful thing that you have done in the exercise of your responsibilities and obligations as the president of a free institution in a free […]

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    • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Virginia Tech: New ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure and Promotion No Longer Under Consideration, But Problematic Policies Remain

      April 14, 2009

      Today’s press release announces what the Virginia Tech faculty appear not even to know, yet: the proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, which would have mandated reporting of “diversity” activities in violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience, are no longer under consideration. FIRE had called on President Charles W. Steger to rescind the proposed guidelines after a tenure-track faculty member came to us for help. This is an important first step towards preserving faculty rights, but much more needs to be done. Over the past three years, Virginia […]

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    • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Virginia Tech: New ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure and Promotion No Longer Under Consideration, But Problematic Policies Remain

      April 14, 2009

      BLACKSBURG, Va., April 14, 2009—The president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has announced that proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment, which would have mandated reporting of “diversity” activities in violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience, are no longer under consideration. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had called on President Charles W. Steger to rescind the proposed guidelines after a tenure-track faculty member came to FIRE for help. “By shelving mandatory ‘diversity’ requirements for tenure and promotion candidates, President Steger has taken an important first step towards preserving faculty rights,” FIRE President […]

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    • Adam’s Letter to the Editor at Virginia Tech on Mandatory ‘Diversity Accomplishments’

      April 10, 2009

      FIRE’s Adam Kissel wrote a letter to the editor of the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, in response to a column last week by Ellington Graves challenging FIRE’s criticism of Virginia Tech’s diversity requirements for faculty members and accusing FIRE of rendering a “poorly reasoned analysis.” Adam sets the record straight. Readers should examine the policy documents and FIRE’s analysis for themselves at www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws. In particular, they should read Provost McNamee’s May 29, 2008, memo to all department heads and to promotion and tenure committees, in which he demands, “Candidates must do a better job of participating in and […]

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    • Editorial: Making financial aid a priority will improve campus diversity

      April 8, 2009

      For high school seniors, available financial aid packages have long served as important precursors for making up one’s mind about where to attend college. At Virginia Tech, potential students can expect to receive their financial aid offering a few days after they’ve received their acceptance notifications. It is very important for Tech to stay competitive with other state colleges when it comes to distributing financial aid. The last thing we would ever want would be to lose qualified applicants to other schools because we failed to put our financial aid offering out there fast enough. For many students, a hefty […]

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    • New Virginia Tech ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure Violate Academic Freedom, Will Be Comprehensively Reviewed by Board of Visitors

      April 6, 2009

      After being alerted to mandatory “diversity” requirements for faculty tenure, promotion, and personal development, the Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has agreed to fully review the school’s tenure and diversity policies, FIRE’s press release reports today. Over the past three years, Virginia Tech’s provost, Mark McNamee, has increasingly demanded ideological conformity in the form of “diversity accomplishments” from the school’s faculty. Last year, in a memo to all department heads and promotion and tenure committees, he insisted that candidates for promotion or tenure “do a better job of participating in and documenting their […]

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    • New Virginia Tech ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure Violate Academic Freedom, Will Be Comprehensively Reviewed by Board of Visitors

      April 6, 2009

      BLACKSBURG, Va., April 6, 2009—After being alerted to mandatory “diversity” requirements for faculty tenure, promotion, and personal development, the Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has agreed to fully review the school’s tenure and diversity policies. “Promoting one’s own view of diversity is one thing, but making narrowly defined and politicized views about diversity an ideological requirement for faculty members is quite another,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Political litmus tests have no place in higher education and the Board of Visitors must help defend individual conscience and academic freedom at Virginia Tech.” Over […]

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    • FIRE Reaches Virginia Tech Community with Column in ‘The Collegiate Times’

      April 1, 2009

      Yesterday on The Torch, Adam wrote convincingly about how Virginia Tech’s efforts to impose vague requirements of a commitment to “diversity” on faculty for tenure and promotion is every bit as much a violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience as requiring a commitment to similarly amorphous ideals, such as “patriotism” or “Christianity.” The Collegiate Times, the student newspaper of Virginia Tech, has published a version of Adam’s Torch entry in its editorial section today, helping FIRE’s concerns about this invasive and unconstitutional threat to reach the constituency most in need of hearing them: the more than 30,000 students […]

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    • Virginia Tech to Demand ‘Diversity’ Conformity by Vote

      March 30, 2009

      Suppose the provost at your college started a new “patriotism” initiative. In the first year, he would permit faculty members to self-report their “patriotism accomplishments.” In the second year, faculty members would be strongly encouraged to report their “patriotism accomplishments” on their annual reports of their activities. In the third year, faculty members would be told that “patriotism accomplishments are especially important for faculty seeking tenure and promotion,” and dossiers for tenure and promotion would include a multi-part section on “patriotism.” There would be a list of kinds of activities that would count as sufficiently “patriotic.” Faculty assessment in the […]

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    • Mark Bauerlein on Virginia Tech Diversity Requirement for Faculty Assessment

      March 27, 2009

      Today CFN faculty member and Emory professor Mark Bauerlein adds his voice to that of FIRE, the National Association of Scholars, and others against Virginia Tech’s requirement of “diversity accomplishments” for faculty tenure and promotion. Bauerlein writes: This week in The Chronicle, Robin Wilson has a story on the “diversity” factor in tenure and promition guidelines at Virginia Tech. According to the guidelines, the promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to demonstrate the candidate’s active involvement in diversity.” The Provost at Virginia Tech claims that the guideline does not “require” professors to join diversity activities, but only “encourages” them […]

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    • Virginia Tech Mandates ‘Diversity’ for Faculty Promotion, Despite Denial

      March 26, 2009

      Yesterday FIRE wrote Virginia Tech’s president, Charles Steger, calling on him to abandon proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment that would seriously violate faculty members’ academic freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The proposal would force faculty members in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to adhere to an ideological loyalty oath to an entirely abstract concept—”diversity”—that can represent vastly different things to different people. Faculty are to be evaluated with “special attention” to the candidate’s “involvement in diversity initiatives.” If adopted, this requirement will inevitably interfere with faculty members’ moral and intellectual freedom […]

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    • FIRE Calls on Virginia Tech to Abandon New Political Litmus Test for Faculty

      March 25, 2009

      Today FIRE has called on Charles W. Steger, President of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), to abandon proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment that would seriously violate faculty members’ academic freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The proposal would force faculty members in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to adhere to an ideological loyalty oath to an entirely abstract concept — “diversity” — that can represent vastly different things to different people. Faculty are to be evaluated with “special attention” to the candidate’s “involvement in diversity initiatives.” This includes “demonstrating […]

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    • FIRE Letter to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University President Charles W. Steger

      March 25, 2009

      March 25, 2009 Dr. Charles W. Steger Office of the President 210 Burruss Hall Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, Virginia 24061 Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (540-231-4265) Dear President Steger: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality, freedom of association, religious liberty and, in this case, freedom of speech and conscience on America’s college campuses. Our website, www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws, will give you a greater […]

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    • Virginia Tech to Reward Faculty For Promoting Diversity

      September 4, 2006

      The annual performance evaluations at Virginia Tech University will include a review of faculty members’ activities to promote diversity on campus. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger outlined a plan Aug. 28 to add diversity to the criteria used in evaluating university instructors. Faculty will report any diversity-related activities, such as advising a minority student group or conducting community outreach programs, each spring on their annual activity report. Academic departments use these reports to provide merit pay increases. In his memo, Stager noted that “creating a diverse and inclusive community is an important and long-standing priority for Virginia Tech.” The policy […]

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