Posted on April 4, 2022

Where DEI Work Is Faculty Work

Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, April 1, 2022

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will soon require all faculty members to submit a diversity statement to be considered for tenure or promotion.

Andreas C. Cangellaris, UIUC’s provost, announced the change this week, saying that in order to meet the goals of its current strategic plan, the university must “catalyze innovation and discovery, find novel and proactive ways to educate students from all walks of life, and develop ever-deeper connections with the public we serve.”


Numerous institutions or specific departments now require faculty job applicants to submit a diversity statement. Others encourage professors to include their diversity, equity and inclusion work in their tenure and promotion portfolios. Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis even approved a new DEI-related track to tenure and promotion last year. But few institutions of UIUC’s size and research profile have considered requiring diversity statements—and, effectively, DEI work—from all professors who hope to be tenured or promoted.

William Bernhard, executive vice provost for academic affairs, said UIUC began working to update its tenure and promotion policy more than two years ago, to better align it with the strategic plan. The policy update also carves out a clear place for DEI contributions in the tenure and promotion process, he said, as individual faculty members or departments had long been “squeezing” this work into the service criterion of their faculty reviews.

The provost’s office describes the new DEI requirement as a one-page-maximum personal statement detailing “specific individual and/or collaborative activities aimed at supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as access.” Candidates should “include a discussion of the context, importance, and impact of their contributions along with their future plans for contributions. The candidate may choose to organize the statement by topic, activity, domain (e.g., research, teaching, and service), or in another manner.”


Nicholas Burbules, Gutgsell Professor of Education and chair of the General University Policy Committee of UIUC’s Senate (and an opinion contributor to Inside Higher Ed), was among a group of faculty members who worked closely with the provost’s office to help shape the new guidelines—including by suggesting examples of what DEI contributions might look like in different fields; across research, teaching and service; and at the individual, program or institutional level. Some examples written into the policy update are:

  • A labor and employment relations professor establishes a campuswide gender-in-higher-education research initiative
  • A medical school professor attends a workshop on culturally responsive approaches to recruit groups underrepresented in medical research
  • A history professor creates a student advisory panel to provide input into the representation of diverse perspectives in courses departmentwide
  • A media professor includes a module in their course on the history of media coverage of issues that impact LGBTQ+ communities in the Midwest
  • A chemistry professor organizes seminars, workshops or informal discussions about supporting the growing number of nontraditional students who are enrolling in undergraduate courses in the department