FIRE sues California’s community colleges for requiring professors to adhere to DEI requirements

August 23, 2023 • 9:30 am

On July 23 I wrote about the mishigass going on in California’s community college system (CCC; a government operation since it’s a state system). CCC professors were not only required to swear fealty to a specific version of DEI, but also incorporate Kendian antiracism into their curriculum. That is, they were required to espouse a given ideology, which is compelled speech that’s illegal under the First Amendment. Here’s the requirements that were in place; the quotes are from the WSJ:

“. . . three months ago California Community Colleges, which serves 1.8 million students at 116 campuses, amended its regulations so employees must espouse its tenets of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA). “Faculty members shall employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect DEIA and anti-racist principles,” the regulations say. Schools must “place significant emphasis on DEIA competencies in employee evaluation and tenure review.”

A detailed baseline explanation of that last policy was soon distributed to faculty, including at Bakersfield College. “The DEI competencies provided in this document are meant to define the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that all California Community College (CCC) employees must demonstrate,” it says, according to the copy attached as an exhibit to Mr. Johnson’s lawsuit. Here are a few of the items it lists as markers of success for faculty and staff:

• “Promotes and incorporates DEI and anti-racist pedagogy.”

• “Develops and implements a pedagogy and/or curriculum that promotes a race-conscious and intersectional lens.”

• “Contributes to DEI and anti-racism research and scholarship.”

• “Articulates the importance and impact of DEI and anti-racism as part of the institution’s greater mission.”

• “Advocates for and advances DEI and anti-racist goals and initiatives.”

• “Leads DEI and anti-racist efforts by participating in DEI groups, committees, or community activities that promote systemic and cultural change to close equity gaps and support minoritized groups.”

• “Participates in a continuous cycle of self-assessment of one’s growth and commitment to DEI and acknowledgement of any internalized personal biases and racial superiority or inferiority.”

At the time, I noted that an affected professor, Daymon Johnson at CCC’s Bakersfield College, who opposed these new regulations, was suing with help from the Institute for Free Speech.

But wait: there’s more news of interest to those of us who oppose mandatory DEI statements for college professors (hiring or promotion) or mandates to teach DEI in classes, especially when the topic isn’t relevant. (The regulations above, which are hard-core instantiations of DEI, surely constitute compelled speech and are an unwarranted intrusion of ideology into any college.) Now the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is also suing the CCC system for the same violations, and they’ve found six professors with “standing” to join the suit.

The situation is outlined in their article below; click the screenshot to read:

An excerpt from the August 17 piece:

Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed a lawsuit on behalf of six California community college professors to halt new, systemwide regulations forcing professors to espouse and teach politicized conceptions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Each of the professors teach at one of three Fresno-area community colleges within the State Center Community College District. Under the new regulations, all of the more-than-54,000 professors who teach in the California Community Colleges system must incorporate “anti-racist” viewpoints into classroom teaching.

The regulations explicitly require professors to pledge allegiance to contested ideological viewpoints. Professors must “acknowledge” that “cultural and social identities are diverse, fluid, and intersectional,” and they must develop “knowledge of the intersectionality of social identities and the multiple axes of oppression that people from different racial, ethnic, and other minoritized groups face.” Faculty performance and tenure will be evaluated based on professors’ commitment to and promotion of the government’s viewpoints.

. . . FIRE is representing professors James Druley, David Richardson, Linda de Morales, and Loren Palsgaard of Madera Community College, Bill Blanken of Reedley College, and Michael Stannard of Clovis Community College. The defendants are California Community Colleges Chancellor Sonya Christian, the State Board of Governors, State Center Community College District Chancellor Carole Goldsmith, and the District Board of Trustees.

A chemistry professor is baffled (and offended) that he has to adhere to these pledges and requirements:

“I’m a professor of chemistry. How am I supposed to incorporate DEI into my classroom instruction?” asked Reedley College professor Bill Blanken. “What’s the ‘anti-racist’ perspective on the atomic mass of boron?”

Of course the woke will explain—and may have already done this in chemistry journals—why it’s essential to teach chemistry from an antiracist perspective, and will tell us how. But this kind of indoctrination doesn’t belong in science—or in any subject taught in college.

FIRE explains why this is illegal:

“These regulations are a totalitarian triple-whammy,” said FIRE attorney Daniel Ortner. “The government is forcing professors to teach and preach a politicized viewpoint they do not share, imposing incomprehensible guidelines, and threatening to punish professors when they cross an arbitrary, indiscernible line.”

. . . An official glossary of terms released by the state makes plain that the “anti-racist” views it mandates are highly ideological. Indeed, the definition for “anti-racism” states that “persons that say they are ‘not a racist’ are in denial.” California declares that “color-blindness,” or the belief that “the best way to end prejudice and discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity,” is itself a problem because it “perpetuates existing racial inequities and denies systematic racism.”

Even a professor saying something as benign as “I grade my class based on merit” is suspect under the regulations. “Merit is embedded in the ideology of Whiteness and upholds race-based structural inequality,” the glossary claims. “Merit protects White privilege under the guise of standards … and as highlighted by anti-affirmative action forces.”

. . . FIRE first expressed concerns with the California regulations when they were proposed in 2022, warning in a public comment that the new rules would “unconstitutionally require faculty to profess allegiance to and to promote a contested set of ideological views.” The response from the chancellor’s office was woefully inadequate, denying that the chancellor or the board of governors could ever violate a professor’s academic freedom. The regulations are now in effect in the State Center Community College District, and FIRE’s clients have already been forced to change their syllabi and teaching materials, lest they face repercussions

Have a look at page 2 of the glossary if you want to see why colorblindness is bad.  And here’s their definition of “merit”:

Merit: A concept that at face value appears to be a neutral measure of academic achievement and qualifications; however, merit is embedded in the ideology of Whiteness and upholds race-based structural inequality. Merit protects White privilege under the guise of standards (i.e., the use of standardized tests that are biased against racial minorities) and as highlighted by anti-affirmative action forces. Merit implies that White people are deemed better qualified and more worthy but are denied opportunities due to race-conscious policies. However, this understanding of merit and worthiness fails to recognize systemic oppression, racism, and generational privilege afforded to Whites.

Merit is “embedded in the ideology of whiteness”?  And it “implies that White people are deemed better qualifed and more worthy”? That, of course, is total nonsense, but also a recipe for getting rid of merit-based judgements, something that is already happening throughout the country.

But I digress. My view is that while this suit may fail at the state level, it should (and must) be appealed to the Supreme Court, and there it will be overturned, as it must be. This is a prima facie violation of the First Amendment. It’s even worse because the state of California itself prohibits using race-based admission to both private and public colleges, and this has been affirmed by the recent Supreme Court decision. If race can’t be used as an admissions criterion, how can they force it to be used as a promotion and hiring criterion for professors. Worse, how can CCC force professors to swear adherence to it?

Those of us who favor some form of affirmative action (I’m one) think there are other ways to get more diverse student bodies and faculties, like expanding searches and using socioeconomic rather than ethnicity criteria to create diversity. While some have said that socioeconomic criteria for admission, which are legal, won’t lead to a diverse student body, I’m not convinced.

19 thoughts on “FIRE sues California’s community colleges for requiring professors to adhere to DEI requirements

  1. The people who wrote that glossary entry on “merit” cannot even use their abbreviations correctly. In their parenthetical, they use “i.e.” when I’m almost certain that they should have used “e.g.”, unless they want to claim the protection of “White privilege under the guise of standards” is just another way of saying, specifically and solely, “the use of standardized tests that are biased against racial minorities”. I’m know I’m nit-picking, and I’m sure I’ve fallen afoul of Muphry’s Law somewhere here, but for crying out loud, these are supposed to people in charge of a state college system.

    1. Maybe they were trying to think of examples and that was the only one they could come up with and then they had a fit of honesty…

      … which would be ironic because the rest of the definition is a lie.

      Merit: A concept that at face value appears to be a neutral measure of academic achievement and qualifications

      Leaving out the well poisoning of “at face value”, that seems to me to be a reasonable definition of the term “merit”.

      An honest attack on an appointments system that claims to be merit based would be to demonstrate that the system has biases e.g. (or i.e. possibly!) the standardised tests really are biased in favour of white people. That would require work on their part though. It’s much easier just to taint the term so that their acolytes automatically associate “merit” with “biased towards whiteness”.

  2. Suing is an encouraging sign.

    But unless Marxist activists are fired, the dialectic (going back to Hegel) will proceed :

    Well, gee, we got sued because there aren’t enough DEI (meaning, Marxist) thought reform personnel – we need to Include the right ones. The DEI needs more Diversity. The DEI needs more activism. We need less whites in DEI because the struggle sessions are too lovey-dovey. The Sustainability goals are not being met, that’s the problem. We have to dialectically synthesize these contradictions into a new synthetic entity to sublate the original contradiction (getting sued and DEI programs).

    Sadly, I think the ratchet / salami tactics have worked enough and it’s all downhill now.

  3. It is a strange white supremacy that puts whites in the economic middle of the pack. South asians, asians and many others, but not all others, do better than the white supremacists in the land of white supremacy. Strange, strange form of white supremacy. Maybe a sociologist can figure it out but I doubt it. They are too busy making DEI forms and “I confess” forms for the rest of us to fill out.

    1. Pertinent to your point:
      “In 2018, Nigerian Americans had a median household income of $68,658 – higher than $61,937 for all overall U.S. households. In 2012, Nigerian Americans had a poverty rate of 12.8%, lower than the U.S. national average of 14.9% and lower than the total African American poverty rate of 27.2%.”

  4. Since this evil has permeated the system, only lawsuits can kill it. And kill it they will. This is blatantly illegal. I hope that the millions of dollars it will cost the State of California will “encourage” the CCC to discontinue this practice. Let the lawsuits begin!

    The atomic mass of boron knows no race or creed.

  5. That glossary is a doozy. The entry on “Anti-racism” is juvenile. It’s hard to imagine thinking adults could endorse such drivel. Even if one were to accept its premises, who could actually think it legal or ethical to compel people to promote it? They’re free to believe it all they want, but coercion cannot displace conversation.

  6. As a general comment:

    Critical Race Theory – by definition – uses an activist dimension (see Delgado and Stefancic, Critical Race Theory : An Introduction, NYU Press, 2017).

    As such, to counter act it’s long march through the institutions — hand-in-hand with Marxism — I recommend Counter Wokecraft by James “Conspiracy Theorist” Lindsay and Charles Pincourt.

    They describe various bullying tactics that ordinarily open-minded and anti-cynical individuals with more important things to do in the lab and elsewhere would never imagine could be used – e.g. (a particularly colorful one, IMHO) :

    The Reverse Trojan Horse Motte and Bailey

    Good luck.

  7. Good for FIRE – time for some adults to get a grip at CCC, which they hopefully will do once the legal cases are eventually decided.

  8. In Canada university teachers are encouraged to embrace EDI principles in their teaching or their applications for promotion, but mostly these things are not required by the university itself. So far one can just keep his head down and do his job without too much EDI fuss.

    Instead we impose EDI requirements through the research grant funding system.

    To be successful in getting funds to do research (including to provide financial support for graduate students and other trainees), one must agree that “Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions”, and develop an action plan for addressing racism and other systemic barriers to inclusion.

    It goes without saying that this is not needed to do research and train new researchers in Canadian universities, which are some of the most welcoming and progressive institutions that humans have ever created.

    1. The worry is that SSHRC is a government agency. No one there cares if their demands on applicants to kowtow and write action plans are wasteful. Generate more enforcement admin jobs in the civil service = good. A grocery store would figure out in a blink that this stuff makes it take longer for someone to do a cleanup in Aisle 6 because the guy with the mop is filling in a DEI questionnaire* and they will get rid of it. But the government regs are there forever.
      * On a scale of 5 to 10, how racist would you say your supervisor is?

  9. The Glossary’s explicit attack on the very concept of merit—and therefore of any standards other than ideological correctness—gives the game away. The drafters of this diktat must have felt very sure of their dominance to be this brazen. Even the drafters of the rules for hiring and promoting Biology professors in the late 1940s in the late-lamented USSR were not this explicit. At the very least, the educrats who run the CCC system should get a flunking grade in history of academe.

  10. I looked at the CCC system’s “careers” webpage, for a quick summary of the careers this system—which explicitly rejects the concept of “merit”—trains its students for. Some of these careers are as follow. “HEALTH SCIENCE—Planning, managing and providing therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services and biotechnology research and development”. “ARCHITECTURE AND CONSTRUCTION—Designing, planning, managing, building and maintaining the built environment”. “TRANSPORTATION, DISTRIBUTION AND LOGISTICS—Planning, managing and moving of people, materials and goods by road, pipeline, air, rail and water, and related professional technical support services such as transportation infrastructure planning and management, logistics services, mobile equipment and facility maintenance.”

    Each career included an estimated “median income”, the source not explained. Interestingly, the highest median incomes listed were not in technical fields like those cited above. By far the highest were in two careers: “Human Services” and “Government and Public Administration”. Median income for these careers was listed as 2.8 x and 2.7 x higher than that listed for mere “Health Science”. Since these more lucrative careers no doubt include the bureaucrats who write CCC rules, maybe that is what they mean in rejecting “merit” altogether.

  11. You folks don’t get it. Questions like “What’s the ‘anti-racist’ perspective on the atomic mass of boron?”. Ideas such as the existence of ‘Boron’ and atomic mass are the products of a certain set of power relations according to the Foucault and Derrida. The very idea of “Chemistry” is based on racism, sexism, patriarchy, etc. according to the PoMos.

    1. Of course. Merely talking about the atomic mass of boron (as if it were something independent of racism, sexism, patriarchy, etc.) is heresy, and in need of being decolonialized. At CCC, the
      decolonialization of all subjects can be accomplished by failing to promote professors who are heretical in this respect.
      One wonders whether the training of technical personnel along these lines hasn’t proceeded already for a few years. Maybe the
      growing net migration out of California (see California Exodus at Wiki) is in response to diminishing competence in many arenas, plus the handiwork of legal theorists like Chesa Boudin & Co.

  12. Gravity is color-blind. Color-blind is racist. Therefore gravity is racist. To end racism, we must end gravity. Smash racism! Smash gravity!

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