The National Association of Scholars’ John Sailer Discusses the University of Tennessee’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Takeover

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the National Association of Scholars Senior Fellow John Sailer to the newsmaker line to detail the recent report about the University of Tennessee’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) takeover.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by John Sailer, who is a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars, which just put out a report called “The Anatomy of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Takeover.” It’s about what happened at the University of Tennessee. Good morning, John.

Sailer: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Leahy: So, out of all of the universities in the United States, why did you pick the University of Tennessee?

Sailer: Well, I think that the reason this is such a good example is the University of Tennessee has taken a unique approach to infusing this diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracy and the, really, ideology that that bureaucracy pushes throughout the school.

So a lot of universities will create diversity, equity, and inclusion plans. But what the University of Tennessee has done is they have actually told every department within the university, every school, and every administrative unit, to go ahead and make their own diversity, equity, and inclusion plan that really has to be exhausted.

So what you have is layer upon layer of DEI policy that exerts influence on almost every aspect of the university. It’s really remarkable to see the scope of this policy reform.

Leahy: What is the statutory authority for the University of Tennessee in doing this?

Sailer: The University of Tennessee administrators are allowed to tell their units and the various departments, and various schools within the university, to execute, or create and execute a plan like this.

And moreover, in reading these many plans, you get the impression that these schools and these units are more than willing to create what I call a DEI overhaul. So you have schools massively reforming their curriculum, and you have schools implementing new curriculum audits and reviews, where every year they will review their curriculum to make sure it includes the right kind of teaching, the right kind of what I would say is blatant ideology.

There’s really no evidence that schools were not willing to do this. And that’s bolstered by the fact that they really go all out and try to institute a sort of new approach to education at the university.

Leahy: We know many of the members of the Tennessee General Assembly, they don’t support this. They’ve made it clear to the University of Tennessee that they don’t support this kind of stuff. How does the University of Tennessee have the audacity to get away with this stuff?

Sailer: Universities are … the culture within universities, and especially the culture within the administration, is very much far removed from the broader culture that they serve.

So, most people in Tennessee, and certainly most people in the Tennessee legislature and Tennessee government, would not approve of far-reaching DEI policies at Tennessee’s flagship public university.

And yet university administrators, especially, face kind of a growing incentive to enact this kind of policy. So I’ll give you one example: in at least four departments within the university, professors now will now be evaluated for their DEI contributions as a part of either their annual review or their promotion and tenure evaluation.

This is, in plainer terms, what we would call an ideological litmus test. DEI generally connotes certain ideological commitments to things like race consciousness, basically opposition to the principle of colorblindness.

This is basically what you have to say in order to not run afoul of DEI bureaucrats. And now that’s a requirement for promotion in tenure. It’s a requirement for a lot of faculty candidates to even get an interview now; they have to submit what is called diversity statements. And those statements are often evaluated to screen out people who have the wrong kind of ideas.

Not only is that illegal, and not only is that really bad for the general health of the university, which should uphold the principle of academic freedom.

What’s really interesting about that is actually it’s recommended by the National Professional Organization of Diversity Officers. So the National Association of Diversity Officers in higher education specifically recommends creating this kind of diversity, equity, and inclusion job requirement that requires professors to contribute to DEI for promotion in tenure.

So while that falls out of line in the minds of ordinary people in Tennessee, it is absolutely the kind of thing that universities are itching to do if their state and if the people in charge allow them to do it.

Leahy: So you write in this report that “the University of Tennessee’s Diversity Action plan is nothing short of a blueprint for an institutional overhaul.

Such a takeover will have obvious implications for education at the University of Tennessee. True education will erode. Indoctrination will flourish.” That’s not a good thing at all, is it?

Sailer: (Chuckles) Yeah, not at all. And if you look at the specifics of the plan, it’s really quite remarkable what students will be required to do, what professors will be required to do, and which departments are implementing these kinds of reforms.

For instance, the College of Engineering, that’s no one’s idea of the vanguard for race-conscious ideology, but the College of Engineering, not only are they requiring that all faculty candidates submit a diversity statement, not only does their plan say that all faculty who are seeking promotion have to be evaluated based on their contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but they’re also requiring students to take diversity seminars and then write … each student is going to be required to write a two-page essay evaluating their biases.

Leahy: Oh, my goodness. Was your study only for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, or did it take the entire University of Tennessee system including Chattanooga, Martin, and a couple of other places?

Sailer: This is just the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. We submitted a freedom of information act request …

Leahy: What is your advice to the Tennessee General Assembly and the governor? What should they do right now to stop this?

Sailer: You can take a couple of approaches. One would be: target-specific policies that are especially egregious right off the bat. So there is no reason that these litmus tests should be in place at any university.

They clearly run afoul of academic freedom. They bring to mind older issues where universities used to require things like anti-communist pledges. It was widely acknowledged that that was a breach of academic freedom …

Leahy: I would call these pledges anti-America pledges.

          Sailer: Yeah, absolutely.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “University of Tennessee Campus” by University of Tennessee. 





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4 Thoughts to “The National Association of Scholars’ John Sailer Discusses the University of Tennessee’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Takeover”

  1. FJB

    Lee is a typical chamber of commerce Republican, not a true conservative. Our gutless legislators will never grow enough spine to cut the budget for UT if they continue this BS.

  2. John Bumpus

    The leaders of the Tennessee General Assembly could make a few select telephone calls to UT leadership—like to the UT President (Randy Boyd) and to the UTK Chancellor etc.—and tell them how ‘the cabbage will be chewed’ (I myself would NOT want to be on the receiving end of any of THOSE telephone calls). These telephone calls would revolve around basic things UT BUDGETS and FUNDING by the General Assembly, and probably other things too like UT administrative and professorial ‘PERKS’ which would involve State money.

    But Bill Lee also has role in this. In fact, where has Lee been on this issue in the last nearly four years? Lee is assured of re-election later this year. So why is NOW not a good time for Lee to begin ‘knocking heads together’ in the UT System to deal with this issue? For starters, Lee should begin by having a stern policy about this issue involving the UT Board of Trustee members. Any recalcitrant Trustee could be immediately removed by Lee—the Governor has THAT constitutional power because the Trustees are his agents! UT Trustees should start ‘laying down the law’ to UT Administrators (Boyd, are you listening?) and other UT ‘big wigs.’ Maybe the UT Board of Trustees should even begin by very publicly causing ‘heads to roll.’ What a message THAT would send throughout the academic community in Tennessee! I think that it is long past time for Tennessee State Government leaders to begin acting like the leaders that the citizens of our State expected them to be when they elected them, and for these legislators to represent the values of the people of our State.

    I hope that one of the outcomes of all of this is that Randy Boyd NEVER becomes the Governor of our State. It is now clear to me that Boyd has utterly failed in his responsibilities to the good people of our State during his stewardship as President of the University of Tennessee System. The voters of Tennessee should never allow Boyd to do to our State (by electing him Governor) what Boyd has allowed, or caused, to happen to the UT System. If THAT happens, expect Tennessee to become no better than the State of Georgia or any one of a half-dozen other nearby States that I could also name. (Randy McNally, are you paying attention?)

    1. 83ragtop50

      The gutless Assembly will never do what you recommend – an approach that I hardily support.

  3. nicky wicks

    DEI is largely communism – Marxism in a race wrapper.

    colleges, which largely were socialist/communist indoctrination centers before, have completed their transformation.

    time to pull the dollar plug on them – no more tax dollars to train people to hate the country.