Dissenting faculty score a rare win against retaliation by the powers of DEI 

From academia to business to government, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies have expanded exponentially over the past decade. At the university, administrators now monitor her DEI compliance at every level, from teaching to hiring to promotion.

And there are very few subtleties and nuances in these programs. If you object to DEI statements, priorities, or training, you do so at your own risk.

this week, Federal Judge Christopher Baker Major issued 44 page report Bakersfield University in California was found to have violated Professor Damon Johnson’s First Amendment rights with its DEI requirements for faculty.

The Johnson case is important because it challenges universities’ claims that DEI policies are merely guidelines and recommended practices. At the same time, the university has significantly expanded its DEI office, incorporating review into every aspect of academic life. The problem is that many DEI policies raise political, religious, and academic values ​​that some academics do not support. This ranges from pronoun requirements to essential perspectives taught in the classroom.

Mr. Johnson is one of those opponents. The history professor was the subject of a five-month investigation by the university after criticizing an English-language Facebook post in 2019. Professor Andrew Bond In it, Bond called the United States a “shithole nation.” Bond added: “Conservatives, please quote me. This country has yet to live up to the ideals of its founding documents.”

Johnson quoted him in the caption. “Do you agree with this extremist?” [social justice warrior] Are you from the English department at BC? What are your thoughts? He then added using his own Facebook account: “Maybe they should move to China and see how much they can make by posting about the People’s Republic of China in general and the Chinese Communist Party. Are you sending me an invoice for the round?”

Mr. Bond responded in September 2021 by filing an administrative complaint against Mr. Johnson, alleging harassment and bullying. Although Mr. Johnson was ultimately acquitted, the university issued a statement against Mr. Johnson saying, “We will investigate further complaints of harassment and bullying and, if applicable, [taking] Appropriate corrective action, including but not limited to discipline as deemed appropriate. ”

Johnson said she has experienced retaliation and harassment for opposing DEI policies. When Judge Baker reviewed Bakersfield’s policies, he found that they were clearly orders, not suggestions. He said universities have a mandatory “duty” to state expectations for faculty, including “teaching, learning and professional practices that reflect DEIA and anti-racism principles, particularly respect and recognition of the diverse backgrounds of students.” I discovered that I am using it. Collaborate with colleagues to improve equitable student outcomes and course completion. ”

Bakersfield also urged faculty to “promote and embrace culturally affirming DEIA and anti-racism principles to foster and create respectful, inclusive, and equitable learning and working environments.” I’m also looking for that. Mr Justice Johnson found the university’s claims that these were merely “ambitious goals” to be “disingenuous”.

This is not the first free speech controversy for Bakersfield University. Another Bakersfield College history professor, Matthew Garrett, was previously fired for speaking out against social justice programs. He and other professors are currently filing a lawsuit..

Following the controversy, John Caulkins, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees (which oversees the college), said: attenuationAledo, “We must continue to weed out” problem teachers. It goes on to say, “I caught them in my livestock operation, so we roped some of them and took them to the slaughterhouse.” I don’t know how to say that.” He later apologized.

Law schools also face controversial mandates. In 2022, the American Bar Association will require law schools to “educate law students about bias, intercultural competency, and racial discrimination (1) at the beginning of their legal education programs; “at least one more time before the start of the program”. graduation. “Many schools now require a faculty member to annually review her DEI or diversity component in teaching.

I have been incorporating racial issues into my classes for a long time. I also teach critical race theory alongside other legal theories to my first year Torts students. I do this because I want them to be familiar with these issues and theories when forming their own views and values. But the increased mandate raises serious questions about free speech and academic freedom for faculty who do not share those views.

Schools often find other reasons to harass or fire dissenting teachers. These efforts recently received a boost from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Denied North Carolina State University professor Stephen Porter’s free speech claims. The statistics professor objected because he believed the standards the school was using to hire minority teachers were low. When he sued over retaliation for opinions he expressed in public and to teachers, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the school could discipline him for lack of “collegiality.” was lowered.

“University-ness” has long been used as an excuse to block the promotion and hiring of women, minorities, and left-wing faculty.decision at Porter v. North Carolina State University Board of Regents The case is pending with the possibility of being heard by the Supreme Court. If passed, the bill would give universities a ready-made excuse to crack down on dwindling numbers of dissenters.

For instructors, content presented as suggestions is often treated as required. Consider “Indigenous Land Recognition,” created for faculty at the University of Washington. The school told professors they could add such a statement to their course materials to honor “all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot Nations.” computer Science Professor Stuart Reges Disagreeing with the factual and philosophical foundations of this statement, “Based on labor property theory, Coast Salish people cannot claim historic ownership over much of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.” Posted land approval stated.

He was told to delete the optional statement. This request was no longer optional. Dean Magdalena Balazinska explained:[t]The company issued a statement calling the content in Stuart Lige’s syllabus inappropriate, offensive and unrelated to the content of the courses he teaches. ”

However, the university’s land approval was somehow considered entirely relevant and appropriate.

Bakersfield College continues to stand out in these efforts against free speech. This school may call itself “rebel,” but it shows a lack of tolerance toward rebellious or dissenting faculty. We may appreciate rebels as mascots, but we increasingly loathe them as colleagues.

Jonathan Turley is the JB and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University School of Law.

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