A plan is under consideration at Oxford University to institute a true ‘social credit system’ that would be applied to new faculty hires. Under this proposal, the hiring process would incorporate a verification process certifying that candidates have provided sufficient signals that they are committed to EDI—equality, diversity, and inclusion. Indeed, EDI would not be considered an ancillary hiring criterion, but an “essential criterion.”
The proposal has raised the ire of some Oxford professors, who spoke to The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, given that it is dangerous today to openly advocate views that break with woke doctrine. They questioned at what level will the commitment to EDI be assessed And whether this commitment will take precedence over teaching and research skills in the hiring process.
Oxford’s plan also calls for the use of observers trained in EDI issues to participate in recruitment panels. This is a particularly disturbing idea, as it would give a decisive role to a new kind of political commissar, entirely disconnected from the essential principles of higher education: freedom of research and quality of knowledge transmission.
One of the stated goals of the project is to advance the cause of racial equality in hiring. Students and professors are expected to submit their comments and objections before Oxford University’s governing bodies make their final decision on the proposal. An Oxford spokesman defended the institution by explaining that this is a simple ‘consultation’ for the moment, and in no way an implementation.
This is not the first time that the British university has faced controversy related to the woke movement. Since 2015, activists have been trying to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, the colonizer of Rhodesia, which graces the exterior of one of the buildings of Oxford’s Oriel College. Rhodes, who had been a student at Oriel College, became one of its benefactors. In June 2020, a new campaign backed by the BLM movement tried to have the statue removed. These efforts were ultimately in vain: the statue ended up staying in place. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, however, was removed from one of Magdalen College’s common halls, as it was deemed a symbol of recent colonial history.
These spectacular, one-off actions represent a small part of a broader problem: the establishment of real thought control and intellectual terrorism that sclerotizes all research, to the point that the very notion of free speech in universities is endangered. The proposal to recruit faculty according to woke criteria is alarming precisely because it is long-term in scope: what can happen to a university, even one of the most prestigious globally, that opts to make conformity to a particular ideology one of its essential hiring criteria?
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).