Complete Victory in Washington
February 28, 2006
When one professor specifically invited him to “write what you really feel” and “feel comfortable in class,” Swan did so. He noted, for example, that he is a “conservative Christian,” believes that “white privilege and male privilege do not exist,” and opposes gun control. Swan then received negative evaluations on “dispositions” commanding him to be “sensitive to community and cultural norms,” “appreciate[e] and valu[e] human diversity,” and “sho[w] respect for others’ varied talents and perspectives”—expressly because of his beliefs.These poor evaluations led Washington State to subject Swan to diversity training and order him to sign an agreement to abide by all the “dispositions” to his professors’ satisfaction, under penalty of dismissal. After FIRE informed Washington State President V. Lane Rawlins that this agreement represented an unconstitutional loyalty oath—in this case, loyalty to the university’s approved political viewpoints—Washington State quickly agreed to rescind the requirement. It also later agreed not to use “dispositions” theory in an unconstitutional manner.
Washington State’s then-current “dispositions” criteria, similar to those used at colleges of education nationwide, required students to have a commitment to vague ideological concepts such as “appreciat[ing] and valu[ing] human diversity,” sensitivity to “community and cultural norms,” and respecting “others’ varied talents and perspectives.” WSU made no effort to ensure that these broad requirements were not used to discriminate against students with political perspectives that might conflict with those of their professors. Other education programs require students to have a commitment to “social justice,” another oft-politicized concept.