Letters to the Editor

On "On Ideological Litmus Tests"

Jonathan Zimmerman | Dec 1, 2023

To the Editor:

I was delighted to read Edward Muir’s “On Ideological Litmus Tests: Historians and the Current Threats to Academic Freedom” (October 2023) and his ardent tribute to Ernst Kantorowicz, who heroically sacrificed his job rather than submitting to a loyalty oath during the McCarthy era. But I was disappointed that Muir ignored our own loyalty oaths: diversity, equity, and inclusion statements. Just like the oath Kantorowicz rejected, DEI statements require us to affirm a set of political propositions. They are—or should be—anathema to anyone who believes in the scholarly standards that Muir defends.

As Ellen Schrecker and other historians have chronicled, most members of our guild sat on their hands during the McCarthy period instead of speaking out for its victims. We are repeating that history, right now. I suspect that many professors think it’s a very bad idea to require job candidates to swear allegiance, even to very good principles like diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’re just too scared to say so.

Jonathan Zimmerman
University of Pennsylvania

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