North Carolina State University now requires undergraduate applicants to answer an essay question affirming their support for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda.

The question on the application says the university is “committed to building a just and inclusive community” and rejects “unjust or inhumane treatment” and will denounce it “clearly and loudly.” The university then prompts students to write a maximum 250-word essay describing “what those words mean to you and how you will contribute to a more diverse and inclusive environment.”

The question was brought to light after Carolina Partnership for Reform raised concerns that it discouraged dissent and intellectual diversity.

In a phone interview with Carolina Journal, Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, said the essay question smacks of McCarthy-era ideological tests and that it was “compelled speech.”

“As far as diversity and inclusion, I think everyone would agree that’s a good thing. But if you take a political approach to it, and you have to submit a philosophical statement, I believe that’s problematic and a slippery slope,” said Hardister, who co-chairs the House Education Universities Committee. “We need to focus more on academics when it comes to students. We need to focus on what do their high-school grades look like, what does their SAT look like, what kind of extracurriculars do they have. It should be approached more as a meritocracy.”

Hardister added that he anticipates the full UNC System Board of Governors to pass a resolution banning the type of statement on the N.C. State application at their meeting Feb. 22-23.

The wording of that resolution states: “The University shall neither solicit nor require an employee or applicant for academic admission or employment to affirmatively ascribe to or opine about beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action as a condition to admission, employment, or professional advancement.”

On the N.C. State University alumni message board Pack Pride, graduates sounded off on the new DEI essay question. One wrote, “If you want to come to NC State and be a social activist and fight for whatever causes you believe in, go for it. If you want to come to NC State, keep your head down, and get your education and not pay attention to anything else, that’s fine too. Those types of questions are dumb and shouldn’t be on the application. Your answer has no bearing on your ability to do the academic work.

Another wrote, “Requiring a kid to answer a loaded question as a requirement to get into a university is nuts. I’d like to know just who is reading and ‘grading’ this essay and what are the criteria they’re looking for in an answer?”

Another added, “I just wish State could produce some better civil engineers.”

Other schools in the UNC System word questions that touch on DEI much more gently and do not require a response.

For example, UNC-Chapel Hill asks applicants to describe “an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others.” Eastern Carolina University gives this prompt to applicants: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

Requests for comment from the N.C. State University media relations team were not returned Feb. 16.