Stanford Law School’s DEI Dean, currently on leave, argues that DEI and free speech can coexist

March 24, 2023 • 9:45 am

The DEI Dean of Stanford Law School (SLS), Tirien Steinbach, is now on leave from the University after helping escalate a disruption between law-school students and a visiting Appellate Court Judge, Kyle Duncan, invited by Stanford’s Federalist Society to talk about the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court.  It’s not clear whether Steinbach voluntarily took a leave, was forced to take a leave, or whether she’ll be fired (they’re pondering that now). No matter what, she is in trouble. The President of Stanford and the Dean of SLS, apologizing to Duncan, singled out Steinbach’s confrontational approach to the judge, and SLS Dean Jenny Martinez’s letter, sent yesterday to the SLS community, said this (her emphasis):

Enforcement of university policies against disruption of speakers is necessary to ensure the expression of a wide range of viewpoints. It also follows from this that when a disruption occurs and the speaker asks for an administrator to help restore order, the administrator who responds should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying, for that imposes the kind of institutional orthodoxy and coercion that the policy on Academic Freedom precludes. For that reason, I stand by my statement in the apology letter that at the event on March 9, “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”

. . . First, Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach is currently on leave. Generally speaking, the university does not comment publicly on pending personnel matters, and so I will not do so at this time. I do want to express concern over the hateful and threatening messages she has received as a result of viral online and media attention and reiterate that actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits. Finally, it should be obvious from what I have stated above that at future events, the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and all staff will receive additional training in that regard.

It’s clear from all the apologies and SLS correspondence that Dean Steinbach’s actions were regarded as disruptive and not conciliatory. (There’s also a swipe at the three other Deans in the room who did nothing.) But in a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (what a weird place to publish this!), Dean Steinbach tries to justify her actions by arguing that diversity and free speech can coexist at Stanford.  And that’s true, so long as free speech is given primacy. What cannot coexist is the current form of DEI initiatives, such as those represented by Steinbach, and freedom of speech, for free speech is perceived by many in the DEI community as offensive and harmful. Regardless of what she says, Dean Steinbach was not trying to harmonize DEI (represented by the upset students) with free speech; she was trying to be divisive.

In this op-ed, as in her remarks to Judge Duncan when he asked for an administrator to cool the disruption, she waffles—indeed, I see her remarks as deliberately disingenuous. She says she’s in favor of free speech, but then asks, as she did during Duncan’s talk, whether “the juice is worth the squeeze”. What she means is that we must ponder whether free speech policy produces results that we’re happy with. That totally undercuts her claimed defense of Stanford’s policy.  Remember, too, that the morning before Duncan spoke, Steinbach sent an email to the SLS community that started this way (read the full text here):

Today, Federal Judge Kyle Duncan (Fifth Circuit) will be speaking at an event on the topic of The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns and Twitter.  While Judge Duncan is not expected to present on his views, advocacy or judicial decisions related directly to LGBTQ+ civil rights, this is an area of law for which he is well known. Numerous senatorsadvocacy groups, think tanks, and judicial accountability groups opposed Kyle Duncan’s nomination to the bench because of his legal advocacy (and public statements) regarding marriage equality, and transgender, voting, reproductive, and immigrants’ rights. However, he was confirmed in 2018. He has been invited to speak at SLS by the student chapter of the Federalist Society.

Yes, the topic was not about Duncan’s own legal decisions and views, but on this: ““The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, guns, and Twitter.”  Nevertheless, Steinbach could not restrain herself from criticizing Duncan’s political views and giving copious links. This email was one of several elements that brought a mob of SLS students together to disrupt Duncan’s talk.

Now, like Lucy, Steinbach has some “‘splaining to do,” and you can read that ‘splaining below. Click the screenshot to read:

As you can see from the title, she’s trying to hold two opposing positions at once: that free speech and diversity can coexist, and whether full-on free speech is really worth the reasons it’s become policy. Her entire whole post is a whitewash of what she did (and does not mentioning her inciting email). So she claims to favor free speech:

 I supported the administration’s decision not to cancel the event or move it to video, as it would censor or limit the free speech of Judge Duncan and the students who invited him. Instead, the administration and I welcomed Judge Duncan to speak while supporting the right of students to protest within the bounds of university policy.

As a member of the Stanford Law School administration—and as a lawyer—I believe that we should strive for authentic free speech. We must strive for an environment in which we meet speech—even that with which we strongly disagree—with more speech, not censorship.

I wonder what she means by “authentic” free speech. Is there “inauthentic” free speech? I think she’s implying here that Duncan’s views, if promulgated, would not be “authentic free speech”, because they would be harmful (see below).

Then she claims that she stepped up to the podium to “de-escalate the situation”, another lie:

As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides.

I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.

First, the verbal sparring match was initiated by the students, not by Duncan, though he did react angrily later.  Second, her job was to de-escalate, not lecture Judge Duncan about why some students were protesting his presence on campus. What she wanted to do was express her own views about Duncan, not educate him on why the students didn’t like him. Her claim here is yet another lie. I wonder where she learned her de-escalation techniques—from Donald Trump?

Steinbach then explains what she meant by asking whether “the juice was worth the squeeze,” saying it refers to “the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech,” which really means “the responsibility not to offend the SLS students.”

Finally, and most disingenuously, she claims that what happened during the lecture is a “microcosm of how polarized our society has become”, which she decries. Yet she herself is largely responsible for the polarization accompanying Duncan’s talk!  Finally, she ends this way:

Diversity, equity and inclusion plans must have clear goals that lead to greater inclusion and belonging for all community members. How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion. Free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion are means to an end, and one that I think many people can actually agree on: to live in a country with liberty and justice for all its people.

God bless America!  Note that there is no “balance” to be struck between free speech and DEI. Free speech at Stanford and at all public universities is NON-NEGOTIABLE; it is not to be quashed or officially tempered so it comports with DEI. Yes, I do advocate civility, and trying to use free speech to create discussion and understanding, but if I have something to say about DEI that I consider worthy of discussion, yet others find it offensive, that’s too damn bad. Free speech trumps offense, non-physical “harm” and the hurt feelings of students.

If you want to see Steinbach’s lecture to Judge Duncan, follow the links from this piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, called “Stanford Law’s diversity dean is ‘on leave’ as controversy boils over a disrupted speech.”

The scene featuring Steinbach and Duncan — captured on video and audio — has been thoroughly scrutinized within and outside of higher ed for two weeks.

Watch and listen to the event itself, or you can read a transcript of Steinbach’s remarks at a link I’ve put below. First, a video of Dean Steinbach’s Moment of Glory:


You can read Steinbach’s remarks here (at FIRE).

To be sure, she does tell the students that SLS has free speech and that she’s in favor of giving Duncan space to finish his remarks. Then she chews the judge out in a way guaranteed to ensure that doesn’t happen. I’ve put that bit of Steinbach’s speech below the fold at the bottom.

If you read the comments after her piece at the SWJ, you’ll see that most of the readers aren’t buying Steinbach’s apologia. Here are four:

This would have been a thoughtful response if the video wasn’t in complete contradiction of what you wrote. This is all an attempt to cover the reprehensible and embarrassing behavior you exhibited, but it fails to do so and actually makes you look worse.

How about simply apologizing for your behavior instead of attempting to justify it.

Well said. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This piece clearly wasn’t written by the same person who was at the event. Nice try.

Well said. Walter Middy couldn’t have recounted a better telling of the story than the Dean.

The hubris of today’s progressives is absolutely staggering. They believe they are so much smarter than everyone else that they can simply re-tell a story in their words and everyone—even those who saw the whole thing—will simply adopt their bent perspective on the world, event, etc.

This woman was no leader in de-escalating the situation; her intervention was a disgrace.

The students’ actions were a disgrace.

Stanford should be absolutely ashamed of this incident.

Belligerent, misbehaved children….


How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion.

Ms. Steinbach resorts to the moral equivalence argument, typical of the left. It doesn’t wash. There is either free speech or there isn’t. No “balance” needs to be made. The students denied Judge Duncan his right to free speech and their tactics were rude and crude. And Ms. Steinbach caved in to the mob.

Finally, the lesson of this post is twofold:

1.) Free speech is not always compatible with DEI or its initiatives. When they conflict, free speech should win

2.)  Dean Steinbach is desperate to put a good face on her remarks by claiming that DEI and “authentic” free speech—whatever that is—are compatible. But all she does is get herself into a bigger muddle. Her best policy would have been to apologize for what she did. Now that would have flummoxed the SLS students!

Below the fold I’ve put a transcript of the place where Steinbach lectures judge Duncan. Click “continue reading” to see her word:

Continue reading “Stanford Law School’s DEI Dean, currently on leave, argues that DEI and free speech can coexist”

When does DEI supersede academic freedom?

March 1, 2023 • 11:45 am

This article from the new Chronicles of Higher Education (click on screenshot below) is deeply misguided. It argues that academic freedom must sometimes give way to DEI initiatives; the argument is based on a balancing of two “rights” (one of which, DEI initiatives, is arguably not a “right”); conflates a professor’s rights with a professor’s preferences, construes student “rights” largely as “the right to not be offended”; and misunderstands the nature of academic freedom. First, though let’s define academic freedom. This construal, from the University of California at Santa Cruz, is as good as any (definitions vary)

Academic freedom: is the freedom of teachers, students, and academic institutions to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead, without undue or unreasonable interference. At the minimum, academic freedom involves the freedom to engage in the entire range of activities involved in the production of knowledge, including choosing a research focus, determining what to teach in the classroom, presenting research findings to colleagues, and publishing research findings. Still, academic freedom has limits. In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized “1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure”, teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for causes such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.

Note that this freedom is already limited by several constraints.  Although I know of no strictures on the freedom to study what a faculty member wants, there are constraints about what one can say in class. You cannot, for example, teach creationism as factual in a biology class. You cannot insult a student or create a climate of harassment in the classroom.  And you have to generally teach as true what is accepted in your field as true, though of course you can offer your opinion, as long as it’s clear that it’s your opinion.

For students the issue of academic freedom is actually the issue of “freedom of speech,” and they are not the same thing. Both faculty and students, at least at publicly funded universities, have full First Amendment rights, but that refers to expression, not research direction. (Most private colleges and universities do claim to adhere to First Amendment standards, and all of them should.) There are limitations on free speech, too; these are well known, having been carved out by the courts over decades and decades. Those limits prohibit repeated personal harassment or threats, speech that promotes imminent and predictable harm, defamation, false advertising, and so on.

But that is not the subject of this article, which is about whether professors are allowed to say things about diversity in the classroom that “harm” students.

The article’s author is Stacy Hawkins, vice dean and a professor of law at Rutgers Law School.

First they argue in the abstract, though it would have helped to start by giving examples of these clashes. Those, however, come later.

From the piece:

Academic administrators, much like judges, need to take seriously the responsibility to weigh the competing interests involved when academic freedom and DEI efforts collide. They must measure the relative harms, evaluate facts and circumstances, and render judgments that elevate the needs of the many over the needs of the few. The First Amendment, and the principle of academic freedom which emanates from it, is not exempt from the rule that no right is absolute. The authors, in fact, acknowledge this need for balance by recognizing that “there is no academic freedom without academic responsibility.”

In particular, academic freedom may sometimes (perhaps also increasingly often) need to cede to the responsibility academic administrators have to effectuate the institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Equally important, academic administrators also have an obligation to protect members of the community from discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. In discharging these responsibilities, some people’s right to express themselves cannot come at the expense of other people’s right to dignity, safety, and equal participation in the academic community. More pointedly, the faculty’s academic freedom cannot always trump student well-being.

The institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a “right” like the contractual obligations of academic freedom, but a choice. However, bigotry, unequal opportunity, and denial of rights to protected groups are already protected by civil rights law.  As you see by the last two sentences, Hawkins is not talking about two clashing rights but one (academic freedom). The other “right”, of people to be protected against bigotry and unequal opportunity, is already protected, and coexists with academic freedom.  What Hawkins is talking about is a newly confected “right”, but one that does not exist, and what’s she means is not protected by either academic freedom or the First Amendment.

Hawkins argues that this clash of “rights” is new because when the concept of academic freedom was formulated,

. . . academe was largely governed by and on behalf of a narrow set of interests (most notably white, male, and Christian). In this context, the content and the terms of the academic-freedom debate were largely ideological (references to Communism, for instance, were common). Accommodating the presence or needs of other (historically marginalized) groups was neither contemplated by nor reflected in the statements about academic freedom that were developed in these earlier periods. The focus was exclusively on promoting the free exchange of ideas among equals.

But let’s cut to the chase. What are some examples of clashes between academic right and the presumed “rights” of DEI? The latter are never really spelled out, but we can guess them as the right to not be harmed or offended by words”.

Some recent, high-profile examples reveal the nature of these conflicts. Consider, for example, a professor who refused to use a student’s preferred pronouns, or another who repeatedly requested a student use an Anglicized name in class, or another who instructed international students to speak English while on campus. In cases such as these, professors commonly defend their actions as protected, sometimes even well-intentioned, speech. A more common example are the numerous instances when a professor has defended the right to use racial epithets or other content considered highly offensive and demeaning to some students in the classroom. Intentions notwithstanding, the impact of this speech on students matters.

The first two seem to me matters of preference, and may involve academic freedom. I’m not sure that you can be fired for not using a student’s preferred pronouns (though I think Jordan Peterson quit his job in Canada because there it is required).  Asking a student to use an Anglicized name is rude and may constitute personal harassment, which would be a violation of academic freedom. As far as I know, there is no right to ask students to “speak English while on campus”, though it seems proper to request a student to use English when answering or asking questions.

As for racial epithets, you have the right to use them if they are used didactically, as Geof Stone used to do in his class on freedom of speech here at the law school (see below), or on an exam as a hypothetical example of speech that’s offensive (as in the case of Jason Kilborn at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School). That is, the right to use epithets is protected by academic freedom if the intent is an academic one, but not if the words are meant as pejoratives.  You should not be disciplined for using them that way, but of course a professor, like Geof Stone, may decide that they’re too inflammatory to serve as examples and their use would derail the discourse. But the students have no right not to have them said didactically in the classroom. Note that in the discussion above, Hawkins implies that the “impact” of this speech matters, and it does, but only psychologically. There is no “right” not to not be impacted. In other words, in terms of academic freedom rights, intent matters and impact doesn’t.

Any well meaning professor will, of course, try to avoid insulting students if it can be avoided, but sometimes you cannot help it. Such was the case of the instructor at Hamline University who showed a picture of Muhammad’s face from an old and famous painting. This was done didactically, as part of an art history course, and the instructor issued two trigger warnings before she showed the painting. But it didn’t matter: Muslim students were offended, complained to the administration, and the instructor was fired. (She is since suing the university.) This is exactly the same kind of conflict between “rights” that Hawkins is writing about. Should the DEI “right” (not showing the picture) triumph? No, because there IS no DEI right here.

Re Geof Stone, here’s what happened at Chicago:

Balancing academic freedom with academic responsibility will sometimes require harmful and offensive speech to be condemned, especially when it serves no legitimate educational purpose. Even within the hotbed of academic freedom, Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor and an avowed defender of faculty free speech, has recently agreed to forgo use of a racial epithet that he has used in class for many years. The reason? He realized that it was causing real harm to his students (both Black and white), and their harm matters. Also, “things change,” according to Stone.

The word was the “n-word”, used to demonstrate how racial epithets should still constitute free speech. As far as I understand, Geof dropped that example not because he realized that the DEI “right” to use it trumped his academic freedom, but because he realized that it really riled up people and derailed the discussion.  His was a decision based on both civility and pedagogy, but not on adhering to one “right” that trumped his academic freedom. Had he persisted in using that word, he would not have been disciplined by the University.

Hawkins’s whole article seems to me a straw man, because it conflates too many things, construes DEI as producing a “right not to be offended”, and because many of the rights asserted aren’t “DEI rights” but simple civil rights already in force. I’m surprised that the dean of a law school would write some of this, for, as my colleague Brian Leiter, a professor at our law school, argues, Hawkins’s article is legally incoherent. Here’s what he wrote in an email and has given me permission to quote:

The article is not just “troubling,” it’s legally incompetent.  It fails to recognize that for all academics at private universities, but also for most faculty at public universities, academic freedom is a contractual right (not simply a constitutional one as the author writes).  Employers can’t breach contractual rights just because they have other objectives they want to pursue.  And while there are some very narrow exceptions to First Amendment protections, there is no DEI exception ot the First Amendment:  indeed, the U.S. does not even have a “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment.   It would be consistent with academic freedom for Rutgers to investigate what this person [JAC: author Stacy Hawkins] is teaching in the classroom, since these mistakes raise serious questions about her competence.

The decline and fall of America’s medical schools

February 25, 2023 • 11:30 am

A reader this morning used ChatGPI write me an email saying that he didn’t like the “excessive” amount of antiwoke stuff on this website, and wondered if I had heard this from other readers. (Answer: almost never, though people may vote with their feet).  Although I informed him that I write about what interests me, and that right now in academia (and elsewhere in America) we’re in the midst of a “racial reckoning” that could completely change the nature of the country, I still felt bad—as I always do when someone tells me I write “too much” about this and that.  And that’s despite Rool #6, which says this:

6. Please do not tell me how to run my site.  That is, comments about “too many cats,” “too many boots,” “not enough biology,” “too much religion,” etc., are not welcome.  I provide content free of charge, and if you don’t like the mix of posts, you’re free to go elsewhere.  By all means take issue with what I say, but don’t argue about the balance of topics.

So, especially today, don’t leave comments agreeing with the reader (i.e., please abide by rule #6).

I’m disturbed enough that although I present this Tablet article, which is antiwoke (its theme is the ruination of America’s medical schools via DEI initiatives), I’m not going to say much about it. It’s free and you can read it for yourself by clicking on the screenshot. There’s a reason to be more concerned with the quality of doctors that is being turned out than with, say, experts on English literature or evolution, for a poorly trained doctor can do a lot of damage to people’s lives and health.

I will give a few excerpts below.

Most of this is about UCSF, a terrific medical school, which has implemented a stringent new DEI policy:

These race-first imperatives have now come to influence the research priorities of major institutions. Perhaps no better case study exists than that of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), an institution devoted exclusively to the medical sciences, and one of the top recipients of federal grants from the National Institutes of Health. Last May, UCSF took the unprecedented step of creating a separate Task Force on Equity and Anti-Racism in Research, which proceeded to make dozens of recommendations.

That task force builds on layers of prior DEI bureaucratic expansion, spanning nearly a decade. This programming includes the “UCSF Anti-Racism Initiative,” started after the summer of 2020, which established dozens of new institutional policies throughout the university, such as “evaluating contributions to diversity statements in faculty advancement portfolios.” The School of Medicine, meanwhile, has published its own Timeline of DEI and Anti-Racism Efforts, which documents such steps as adding a “social justice pillar” to the school’s curriculum and creating an anti-racist curriculum advisory committee.

The policies often promote an idiosyncratic and controversial understanding of concepts like diversity and racism. Through its Difference Matters initiative, the medical school created a document titled “Anti-Racism and Race Literacy: A Primer and Toolkit for Medical Educators”—which is filled with eyebrow-raising assertions. Racism, the guide asserts, “refers to the prioritization of the people who are considered white and the devaluation, exploitation, and exclusion of people racialized as non-white.” Anti-racism, meanwhile, involves directly shifting power from those who are white to those who are Black. “Anti-racism examines and disrupts the power imbalances between racialized and non-racialized people (white people), to shift power away from those who have been historically over-advantaged and towards people of color, especially Black people.” Of course, when applied to the allocation of lifesaving medical care, these ideals can carry weighty consequences. During the height of the COVID pandemic, New York, Minnesota, and Utah issued guidance for allocating monoclonal antibodies that heavily prioritized racial and ethnic minorities.

But race isn’t the only issue for which these initiatives demand action:

Some of these initiatives create obvious issues of academic freedom. In 2020, the UNC School of Medicine created a “Task Force for Integrating Social Justice Into the Curriculum,” issuing a report with dozens of recommendations. One called for faculty to adhere to “core concepts of anti-racism,” listing several of these required “concepts,” including “race is not a set biological category” and “specific organs and cells do not belong to specific genders.” The task force also called for students to “be trained in core advocacy skills”—even listing a number of political causes that it deemed important for students to embrace. These causes, which the report labeled “health realms,” included “restoring U.S. leadership to reverse climate change,” and “achieving radical reform of the US criminal justice system.” The school initially listed every recommendation as “On Time” on an online implementation tracker, though it eventually walked back some of the more controversial requirements.

Finally, UCSF’s (non)response to criticism:

By the time it published the report, the UCSF task force was aware of all of these issues. Each had been brought up by UCSF employees during the comment period. The comments were published in the report’s appendixes, which make up perhaps the most telling part of the whole publication.

One commenter repeated the same line in every answer: “I fundamentally do not feel or have ever felt that UCSF is a racist place. These are grossly misdirected funds and efforts.” Several cautioned against embracing discriminatory policies in the name of anti-racism. “All of the above sounds to me like trying to fight racism with more racism,” one noted. Still others urge the task force not to distract from UCSF’s focus on scientific research. As one commenter put it, “UCSF is a medical and life science campus. Its strength lies in its objective data-driven experimental approach. Qualitative and sociological research has no place at UCSF and no place in scientific medical research and will undermine UCSF’s reputation.”

Yet rather than addressing the concerns of the school’s employees, the report attacks them while presenting its authors as the real victims.

It is important to note that while many of the comments received were constructive and helpful, task force members were traumatized by a striking number of comments that denied the existence of inequities and racism, and others that minimized the burden that racism has imposed, particularly on Black Americans at UCSF.

The forward to the report quotes one of the task force co-chairs, Sun Yu Cotter, who adds:

It is extremely important to acknowledge the magnitude of the emotional labor and trauma that many of the Task Force members endured in doing this work, particularly during the public comment period. Not only are many of the Task Force members, especially our Black colleagues, encountering and navigating racism on a daily basis at work and outside of work, we are also volunteering our very limited time to dive into grueling work (the minority tax is real!). Then to be gaslit by some members of our very own UCSF community was very painful.

Take note. This is the future of American medicine.

I have no comment but to add that for obvious reasons we really need to worry about the politicization of medical schools, and also about the extreme lowering of standards that has gone with it.

h/t: Adam

A court case against DEI and discriminatory hiring

February 13, 2023 • 9:15 am

Although I’ve always said I’m in favor of some affirmative action in college admissions and hiring (but haven’t figured out exactly it should be implemented), I’ve never been in favor of mandatory DEI (“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”) statements as required parts applications for admission to colleges, graduate schools, or especially academic jobs.

It should not be part of a job application to show how you can engage in social engineering. Further, DEI statements constitute compelled speech, similar to the loyalty oaths that California academics used to take, and thus is unconstitutional.

These mandatory statements also change the purpose of a university—normally to teach, to learn, to learn to think, and to do research—into a form of social activism that must adhere to specific tenets of DEI. The statements are judged on how closely they adhere to a school’s construal of Critical Race Theory, and are often read and rated before one’s academic credentials are assessed. If you don’t meet the right “rubric” for your statement, your application can be trashed.  Woe unto the applicant who says they “will treat all students equally” or “will adhere to Dr. King’s view that people should be judged by the content of their character [in this case, their academic achievement] and not the color of their skin”. Such candidates are considered unenlightened, and accrue the lowest ratings.

And if you don’t have a philosophy of DEI, a history of past DEI efforts, and a plan about how you can implement DEI in your university, then you stand little chance of getting a job. (There are usually three aspects to a DEI statement.)

Now not all schools require such statements. The University of Chicago, for instance, explicitly forbids them as per our Shils Report (full document here), which mandates that the criteria for academic appointments and promotion must comprise only research, teaching and training (grad students), contributions to the intellectual community, and service (this includes service to the University and your academic field, like giving seminars, editing academic journals, and so on.) The U of C has mandated that DEI statements are not included in this, and it’s forbidden for academic departments to require them for hiring and promoting faculty. I know of no other school that has such a prohibition, although there may be some.

In contrast, many schools not only require DEI statements, which can be and are used in race-based hiring—an attempt to secure equity among faculty—but even designate certain jobs only for candidates of certain ethnicities. Like DEI statements, hiring on the basis of ethnicity is against the law. But as the article below notes, schools know about this illegality but flout it anyway, because nobody ever penalizes them for doing so.  Lawsuits against such discrimination are nonexistent for three reasons:

a.) They’re bloody expensive.

b.) You have to have “standing” to sue: to prove that discriminatory hiring based on race injured you.  It’s hard to prove that.

c.) As the article below notes, if you sue a school because you were not hired or not considered because, say, you were Asian or white, you become academically radioactive: no liberal school (i.e. nearly all schools) will want to hire such a notorious person.

This is not a conservative point of view but a liberal one, as it is anti-discrimination and anti-compelled speech. The push to get rid of DEI statements is supported by all academic freedom organizations I can think of, including the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). FIRE notes that while the Constitutional prohibition applies only at public schools and colleges, it should apply more widely than that. As they say:

The First Amendment prohibits public universities from compelling faculty to assent to specific ideological views or to embed those views in academic activities. While private universities are not bound by the First Amendment, they generally make commitments to free speech and academic freedom that similarly preclude enforcement of any political, moral, or ideological dogma. Such colleges and universities educate and employ the overwhelming majority of America’s students and faculty members, and this document is intended to address DEI policies at those institutions.

But one person—Richard Lowery, an associate professor of business and finance at the University of Texas—has filed such a lawsuit against Texas A&M University.  In his case, the “injury” consisted of the fact that (although he apparently has no interest in a job at Texas A&M, which isn’t as good as UT in his field), Lowery wouldn’t even be considered for a job because it was advertised as being open only to members of underrepresented minorities. Texas A&M is a public school, and thus violated the law by advertising a job open only to candidates of certain ethnic backgrounds.

Lowery’s gambit is a clever way to get standing, and apparently it’s worked so far (it also allowed other people to join in on a class action suit). Several law faculty at other schools are quoted as saying this is a pretty solid suit with a good chance of winning.

Click below to read:

Here’s the basis of the case as described above (remember, as a state school, Texas A&M must adhere to the First Amendment):

. . . the law may finally be coming for the overt employment discrimination practiced on most campuses today. The form of the destructor may be a test case filed on September 10: Lowery v. Texas A&M University System.

As described in the complaint:

8. The Texas A&M University System, along with nearly every university in the United States, discriminates on account of race and sex when hiring its faculty, by giving discriminatory preferences to female or non-Asian minorities at the expense of white and Asian men. This practice, popularly known as “affirmative action,” has led universities to hire and promote inferior faculty candidates over individuals with better scholarship, better credentials, and better teaching ability.

9. These race and sex preferences are patently illegal under Title VI and Title IX, which prohibit all forms of race and sex discrimination at universities that receive federal funds. But university administrators think they can flout these federal statutes with impunity because no one ever sues them over their discriminatory faculty-hiring practices and the Department of Education looks the other way.

10. These discriminatory, illegal, and anti-meritocratic practices have been egged on by woke ideologues who populate the so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public and private universities throughout the United States. The existence of these offices is subverting meritocracy and encouraging wholesale violations of civil-rights laws throughout our nation’s university system.

Specifically, the complaint avers that in July 2022, Texas A&M’s “office for diversity” announced a program for hiring professors that was limited to members of “underrepresented groups,” which it defined as “African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians.” In other words, like many DEI initiatives that pervade most university campuses today, white and Asian men need not apply for this program. Texas A&M justified the program with the goal of establishing a faculty whose racial composition attains “parity with that of the State of Texas”—despite the fact that even Grutter recognized that such racial balancing was “patently unconstitutional.”

Part of Texas A&M’s efforts to achieve such racial balancing has also been to establish faculty hiring lines open only to members of “underrepresented groups.” One such hiring line was in the Department of Finance, where the head of the recruiting committee confirmed in writing that the position was indeed “reserved” for non-white, non-Asian candidates.

Richard Lowery is a finance professor at the University of Texas and is a vocal critic of DEI programs. (Disclosure: I know Rich and have written about him in the past, but I am not involved in his case and did not know of it until after it was filed.) There should be no serious question that he would be qualified for a teaching position in the finance department at Texas A&M; indeed, his qualifications easily exceed those of many current Texas A&M finance professors. Yet despite being “able and ready” to apply for the position, Texas A&M’s “reserving” the position for non-white, non-Asian candidates means that he is ineligible for it.

Lowery’s lawsuit sues Texas A&M and various officials for violations of Title VI and Title IX, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting the university from discriminating on the basis of race and sex in hiring decisions. It also seeks redress for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a), which guarantees individuals the same right to make and enforce contracts without regard to race, and for violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lawsuit also has another twist: it seeks certification as a class action, for the benefit of all white and Asian candidates who have been discriminated against by Texas A&M’s DEI employment initiatives.

Lowery is of course an opponent of DEI initiatives; why else would he put himself through the trouble of this lawsuit?

Given that the job was limited only to certain ethnic groups, it seems palpably unconstitutional, and I suspect Lowery’s suit will win—unless he is found not to have standing. But, to be sure, any Asian and white person who could have or would have applied for the job could in principle claim injury. Whether that’s upheld or dismissed solely on the grounds of standing, it’s only a matter of time before some brave soul brings a lawsuit on civil rights grounds and does have standing; and that person will win. That will bring the whole DEI-statement mishigas crashing down, and that’s to the good.

The article quotes three law professors who say Lowery’s case is strong. They may be conservatives (I don’t know), but they’re also at good schools: UC Berkeley, Cornell, and UC San Diego. I’ll give two of the statements, one from someone on the US Commission on Civil rights.

How does the case shape up legally? Asked for comment, University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo says:

This seems like a strong case. The Supreme Court’s diversity rationale for the use of race in university admissions for students is a limited exception to the general rule that the Constitution prohibits government from using skin color in its decisions and policies. Here, Texas A&M is flatly using race in considering the hiring and compensation of faculty. It is flatly unconstitutional and the university should lose in court.

. . . University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot, who is also a commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, observes:

For a long time, faculty members and aspiring faculty members who have been discriminated against have been reluctant to sue—mainly out of fear that they will be ostracized. As a result, college and universities have gotten bolder and bolder in the ways they flout the law. But the tide appears to be turning. There will likely be more lawsuits of this type in the near future.”

I’m sure there will be. It’s only a matter of time.

Chronicle: DEI erodes academic freedom

February 7, 2023 • 9:45 am

For a while I’ve been making the obvious point that free speech (or academic freedom) and “inclusivity” don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, that’s exactly what you should expect, for free speech and academic freedom guarantee that some people will be offended, and the offended are clearly not “included.”  Likewise, the compelled speech inherent in today’s versions of DEI is incompatible with freedom of speech and with academic freedom.  This is why the phrase “inclusive excellence”, which we see everywhere these days, is an oxymoron. “Excellence” is having academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Yet it’s taboo to mention this conflict, and universities and academics blithely float the notion of “inclusive excellence”. The recent incident at Hamline University, in which instructor Erika López Prater was fired for showing an ancient painting of Muhammad (with his face clearly in view) to her art history class, shows this tension clearly. López Prater was simply exercising her academic freedom, teaching what she thought was important in the history of Islamic art. Yet after Muslim students raised an uproar, saying that they had been “excluded” (as well as offended), the teacher was let go. López Prater jas filed a lawsuit, and she’ll either win that or will receive a generous settlement. Hamline has fallen into disrepute, a nationally notorious example of abrogating academic freedom; and the faculty has called for its president to resign.

We have other examples of professors fired for giving offense, but you can consult FIRE to read about them.

Now there are some construals of DEI that aren’t in potential conflict with academic freedom and free speech, but those aren’t the ones that universities are pushing. If “diversity” means “diversity of ideas”, if the “E” stood for “equality of treatment” rather than “equity” (proportional representation), and if “inclusion” meant “a university and workspace free from personal harassment,” then DEI would be okay, and wouldn’t conflict with any other freedoms. But of course that’s not what universities mean by DEI, as the authors note below.

But I digress: here’s an article by Anna Khalid (“an associate professor of history at Carleton College and host of the podcast Banished“) and Jeffrey Snyder (” associate professor in the department of educational studies at Carleton College”), who decided to say what nobody else dare.  What surprises me is that it’s in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Click to read:

In fact, the authors use the Hamline case, which I’ve discussed in detail, to outline the incompatibility of DEI and academic freedom.

Here’s the authors’ evidence for the ubiquity of the false claim that DEI and lack of offense are totally compatible:

The assertion that inclusion and academic freedom are not in tension is an article of faith for many of those dedicated to promoting campus inclusion. In 2018, the Harvard University Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging released an 82-page report stating that the “values of academic freedom and inclusion and belonging provide each other with synergistic and mutual reinforcement.” According to this report, the two should not be conceived of as “distinct values that must be accommodated to each other” or, worse still, as “antagonistic goals.” This view is central to the frameworks advanced in books such as Ulrich Baer’s What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus, John Palfrey’s Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education andSigal Ben-Porath’s Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy.

And here’s the going version of DEI, which the authors call “DEI Inc.”:

DEI Inc. is a logic, a lingo, and a set of administrative policies and practices. The logic is as follows: Education is a product, students are consumers, and campus diversity is a customer-service issue that needs to be administered from the top down. (“Chief diversity officers,” according to an article in Diversity Officer Magazine,“are best defined as ‘change-management specialists.’”) DEI Inc. purveys asafety-and-security model of learning that is highly attuned to harm and that conflates respect for minority students with unwavering affirmation and validation.

Lived experiencethe intent-impact gapmicroaggressionstrigger warnings, inclusive excellence. You know the language of DEI Inc. when you hear it. It’s a combination of management-consultant buzzwords, social justice slogans, and “therapy speak.” The standard package of DEI Inc. administrative “initiatives” should be familiar too, from antiracism trainings to bias-response teamsand mandatory diversity statements for hiring and promotion.

You can see that saying anything that contradicts this notion, for example criticizing Kendi’s claim that what is not “antiracist” is supporting racism, will cause offense.

Here’s how Hamline stated explicitly that academic freedom could cause “harm”—harm because it violated the rules of DEI Inc.

In December, President Miller and David Everett [Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence] sent an open letter to the campus asserting that “appreciation of religious and other differences should supersede when we know that what we teach will cause harm,”and in particular “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.” After the news made national and international headlines, Miller doubled down, explaining that her decisions were guided by “prioritizing the well-being of our students,” especially by“minimizing harm.”

Miller’s comments at least had the virtue of offering an honest diagnosis of the tension between academic freedom and inclusion. This tension has only ratcheted up in recent years, as colleges make grand promises to create “environments in which any individual or group feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued.” With institutions promoting such an expansive definition of “inclusion,” we shouldn’t be surprised when they become ensnared in their own rhetoric and policies. How will DEI administrators respond when a Chinese national complains that a political-science discussion about the persecution of Uyghurs is “harmful anti-Chinese propaganda”?Or when a Christian evangelical says her faith was insulted in a contemporary art class after seeing a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of two men kissing? The permutations are endless and, for professors who teach sensitive or controversial material, alarming.

There’s the old trope of “harm” again, which really means “offense”.  And can you imagine this fracas occurring if, say, López Prater offended fundamentalist Jews (perhaps by showing a meal containing dairy and meat) or Christians (perhaps by showing Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ“)? I can’t. It’s Muslims who have the leverage to get a professor fired, for, unlike Christians and Jews, they are perceived as victims because they’re also perceived as people of color. DEI is not meant for Christians and Jews. But that’s really irrelevant: the point is that if your legitimate teaching in the classroom offends students, then it’s too bad for them. Art, of course, is particularly prone to this because a lot of art is designed to shock, offend, or shake people out of their complacency.

Firing someone for violating academic freedom abrogates a number of university regulations in schools that avow academic freedom, and can violate the law in government-funded schools and state schools. The AAUP states this explicitly:

The American Association of University Professors clearly states that students do not have the right to shield even their “most cherished beliefs” from challenge or scrutiny:

Ideas that are germane to a subject under discussion in a classroom cannot be censored because a student with particular religious or political beliefs might be offended. Instruction cannot proceed in the atmosphere of fear that would be produced were a teacher to become subject to administrative sanction based upon the idiosyncratic reaction of one or more students. This would create a classroom environment inimical to the free and vigorous exchange of ideas necessary for teaching and learning in higher education.

Khalid and Snyder also point out that it’s not just the Woke who try to overturn academic freedom because it causes offense. “Anti-CRT laws”, now being passed by right-wingers throughout the South, restrict a teacher’s right to teach about race and gender if that teaching makes “any individual. . . feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”  That’s a recipe for disaster, and I oppose such laws.

But let’s be clear. A teacher doesn’t have the right to teach anything in their classroom, especially in secondary schools. You can’t teach creationism, for instance, as it violates the First Amendment. And you can’t just go nuts and teach crazy stuff, for schools have prescribed lesson plans and material that must be covered. But if what you’re teaching fits well into your curriculum, and isn’t just a political or ideological harangue with no didactic purpose, they should leave you alone.

At the end, the authors call for a vigorous defense of academic freedom (that also goes for freedom of speech, which is not identical but related) and bring up the University of Chicago:

When institutions proclaim that academic freedom and inclusion coexist in a kind of synergistic harmony, they are trafficking in PR-driven wishful thinking. In the hardest cases, there is no way of upholding an “all are welcome here” brand of inclusion while simultaneously defending academic freedom. Instead, we should turn to the wise words of Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.”

I should put that as the tagline on all of my emails!

Here’s “Piss Christ” (1987) a photo of a crucifix submerged in a beaker of the photographer’s urine. For many it’s a highly regarded work of art, for others an egregious and blasphemous offense.

Geological Society of America adds one item to their “rubric” for the Young Scientist Award

February 5, 2023 • 11:30 am

Like many scientific societies, the Geological Society of America (GSA) gives out prizes for scientific achievement. Their awards page lists ten, including the Young Scientist Award, also called the “Donath Medal” after the family that endowed the prize. Here is what the prize is for—contributing to geologic knowledge through your research:

As you see, the criteria are that you have to be 35 or younger and have shown “outstanding achievement in contributing to geologic knowledge through original research that marks a major advance in the earth sciences.”

Apparently, though, this year they added one item to the judging “rubric” (I hate that word) used previously.  Can you guess what that item might be? Stop and think for a second before reading on.

Okay, read on:

Here are the current criteria and evaluation form for the Donath Medal from the GSA’s page. Note that scientific achievement as well a young age are the SOLE criteria for judging the award. But they tweaked “scientific achievement” a bit (bolding is mine):

Overview: Ranking of candidates will consider scientific achievement in contributing to geologic (interpreted to include all Earth science disciplines of GSA) knowledge through original research that marks a major advance in the earth sciences. Significance of scientific achievement and age (<36 yrs) shall be the sole criteria (age evaluated by GSA staff). Appropriate contributions to DEI related to scientific achievement should be considered as an essential part of advancing Earth science disciplines of GSA.

What they’ve apparently done is lumped DEI contributions with real science as a part of “scientific achievement”. You can see that in the numerical evaluation form below. I suspect that a candidate, no matter how impressive their scientific accomplishments, has no chance at the award if they don’t have a decent record of fostering DEI.  This, of course, like the many universities who require DEI statements for hiring or promotion, is a way of turning science into social engineering. Not only that, but a particular and debatable form of social engineering: the creation of equity in all fields of endeavor. And because you must express one point of view to get these prizes, you are the victim of compelled speech.

Characterizing this criterion as part of scientific achievement seems to me clearly duplicitous.  If you’re under 35 and the sole criterion for the award, besides being young, is “scientific achievement”, then you can’t just go tacking Social Justice onto that. DEI efforts, regardless of how much you value them, are not scientific achievements but sociopolitical activities meant to advance an ideological goal.

As Anna commented below (I missed this bit somehow), you can get extra DEI points by “increasing representation of underrepresented groups through their own participation as a member of a URM group. . . “. This means that if you’re a member of an underrepresented minority group, you get extra points just for being who you are. This means it’s easier to win the prize if you’re of a “minoritized” group, making it a somewhat race-based prize.

And this is now the big problem with science. Not only is it being infiltrated by woke ideology to an extent I would have thought impossible, but now that ideology is considered as an essential part of science itself. This is why activists feel empowered to tweak and change scientific truth if it doesn’t comport with their beliefs. One example of this is the pervasive insistence that animals have more than two sexes. (They don’t.) If you can’t see your ideology instantiated in nature, you must find a way to force nature into the Procrustean bed of your ideology.

And you make ideological criteria piggyback on scientific merit. I wonder if the Donath family is down with the new rules. (They’ve also added DEI statements as requirements for other GSA awards.)

Ideology burrows deep into the arts in America

February 1, 2023 • 10:15 am

I’ve been involved in writing some stuff about how Social Justice ideology—following Pluckrose and Lindsay, our capitals indicate the harmful form of social justice—has infected science, like my piece the other day on Biden’s plan to foster both equity and excellence in the arts. That turned out to be a plan to foster equity, with excellence simply equated to “equity” or seen as an inevitable byproduct of equity. The more I dig into how science is interacting with culture, the more worried I get that science really is under the thumb of Social Justice, and that merit and quality are being thrown under the bus in the name of “equity”. (I refer to proportional representation by presence in the U.S., not “equality of opportunity or treatment,” which poses no threat to anything.)

This new article by Rikki Schlott (a writer and activist) at the Free Press shows how deeply the termites have already dined in the arts. In fact, every endeavor, every field of work, and every organization in America is being ideologically captured by Social Justice, and this article shows how invidious it’s been in the arts—especially theater and ballet.  I am now beginning to worry that our society is gradually transforming its culture into one resembling Stalin’s Russia, where every endeavor, including science and art, had to be done in the service of official ideology. In the end, that killed both science, much of which died a slow death under Stalin, and art, which we all know became tedious, political, and homogeneous under the same regime.

Schlott’s article also notes that in September of last year Biden signed an “Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, the Humanities, and Library Services” that is largely about advancing equity, though there are a few bits that seem to be identity-blind. But this account of what’s happening to the arts is hair-raising. It’s not due to the government, but to social pressure, to funding agencies who refuse to give money to artists unless they demonstrate a commitment to DEI, and to cultural authoritarians who, for example, refuse to hire a white sign-language interpreter to help deaf people understand words spoken by black people.

Click to read, and, as always, subscribe if you read often.  I have resubscribed and managed to keep the initial $50 price per year, though I think it’s gone up for new subscribers (in fairness, the site has hugely expanded its stable of writers):

Art can properly be political of course (“The Crucible” is one example), but now all art is forced to be political, and artistic organizations forced to adhere to prescribed DEI criteria—ideologies. The piece starts with the story of Lincoln Jones, a (white) choreographer for the American Contemporary Ballet Company (ACBC). Because he refused to politicize his organization by putting a sign of support for Black Lives Matter on the company’s Instagram account, he lost a ton of funding, and it’s not clear that the ACBC will survive. It’s not that he disapproved of BLM, but that was trying to be institutionally neutral:

“Our dancers were free to post whatever they wanted on their own social media, but I knew I wasn’t going to do it on the company account,” [Jones] said. “That’s not part of our mission.”

Then the social media pushback began, demanding that Jones adhere to BLM publicly. Some of his dancers revolted too. Then he compounded the assault by making a few statements that poured oil on the fire:

In the face of mounting pressure from the dance world, Jones sent an email to his employees clarifying his position. “American Contemporary Ballet is not a political organization,” he wrote. “Our mission is great dance. It is not our prerogative to represent each other politically.”

. . . When an agent he hired to find funding and get a director for the project told him he needed to hire dancers of color from outside his company to get the film made, Jones objected.

“One of the things I will not do is hire by race or give preference by race,” he said. “Ballet does discriminate, just not by race. This is a highly athletic art form that discriminates by body, talent, and artistic sensitivity. You have to have a certain kind of feet and proportions. It’s not just a convention. It’s like an opera singer having a loud voice.”

That’s when he began losing funding—big time. The refusal to take race into account is a slap in the face of DEI, even though it comports with Dr. King’s famous words. Even conductors who audition potential orchestra musicians behind a screen, so that neither sex nor ethnicity can be known, are being criticized explicitly because they refuse to take race and gender into account.  

Jones is in trouble, and so are the arts in general as they become politicized. There is pushback, but it’s largely anonymous because speech has been chilled.

That bargain—pledge allegiance to the new orthodoxy or stick to your mission and risk your career—is one now faced by many in the world of American fine arts.

I spoke to more than a dozen people working in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. Some have won Pulitzer prizes. Others are just at the beginning of their careers. What they all have in common is a concern that DEI—short for diversity, equity, and inclusion, a catchall term for racial equity initiatives—is creeping into the arts and politicizing artistic expression.

But only a tiny number of those people have blown the whistle.

There are some “whistleblowers” who have gone public and even sued for being discriminated against because they were white (and got settlements), but in general people are fearful. It’s okay to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, but only if you were a private foundation that gets no federal funding. In other cases there can be no discrimination against “protected classes.” But there is: plenty of it, and, in the article, is based on race. Comply with DEI demands or give up a career in ballet, theater, or even visual arts:

Even some artists who are far in their career are too scared to comment about the new DEI demands.

“Artists already have enough challenges, and now we have all these layers of bureaucracy and mandates,” said one Pulitzer Prize–winning creative, who asked me not to print his name or even his field because he fears reprisals. “Artists are just too vulnerable to the vagaries of funding and cultural trends. Even those who are successful just can’t risk it. A freelance artist’s career could be over tomorrow if they make a fuss.”

He said he worries about America’s new generation of artists. “I’m established. I’m far enough along in my career that it doesn’t affect me as much as it does artists in [the younger] generation.”

Brent Morden is one of them. Morden is a white, 25-year-old music and choir director in New York City. Though he’s only at the beginning of his career, he said he’s already felt the crunch of funding and lost opportunities because he doesn’t tick any diversity boxes.

“When I see commissions or opportunities that are specifically looking for females or LGBTQ or BIPOC people to apply, I just sigh, wonder what this achieves, and move on,” he said. “Artistic institutions are adopting mission statements that sound nice and virtuous, but if you dig deeper under the surface, they’re promoting an agenda that doesn’t promote true and fair diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Two more bits for your enlightenment (I added the link to Landesman):

[Morden’s] feelings are echoed by renowned Broadway theater producer Rocco Landesman. From 2009 to 2012, Landesman served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under the Obama administration. He told me he started noticing DEI creeping into the arts world around 2013 and has “no doubt” that “we’re seeing increasingly coercive guidelines.”

Landesman said he was shocked when, in 2019, a San Francisco school board voted to paint over a mural at George Washington High School that depicted the life of America’s first president, because it was deemed offensive to black and Native Americans.

“When you have art actually being destroyed because it doesn’t fit into a certain view of the world, that’s extremely alarming,” Landesman said.

Though the board reversed its decision last year, the controversy shows how the left has turned its back on the arts in the name of pursuing diversity, Landesman said.

“It’s shocking to see that proposed by progressives. I never thought we’d come to that point—it’s an amazing turn to see liberals be literally anti-art.”

Some information about how funding for art, like funding for science, depends increasingly on adherence to specific DEI criteria:

Today, many of America’s arts funders have made social justice the criteria for grants. Of the two dozen foundations I surveyed that are based in New York and California and fund the arts, fifteen either professed allegiance to DEI principles on their websites or explicitly stated they strive for racial equity via philanthropic endeavors. Of the handful of actual grant applications I could get my hands on, several required DEI statements or demographic data from applicants.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation, for instance, which doles out roughly $6 million in grants a year focused on arts, education, and social causes, has committed itself to “a continuing examination of privilege” ensuring “grantmaking that aligns with the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.” As part of their application, each organization must provide a list of their board members’ titles, length of service, and racial and ethnic profiles.

And the Ford Foundation, one of the most influential charitable organizations in the country, boasting a $16 billion endowment, has led a group of fifteen major donors in dedicating $160 million specifically to BIPOC arts organizations.

The parallels with science are multifarious: funding organizations, social media, and other artists are demanding adherence to Social Justice standards (in science we also have deans and administrations putting the pressure on). The whole situation is summed up by Landesman:

“We’re taking first-rate artists and making them into third-rate political activists,” he said.

“Art is supposed to unsettle us; art challenges what we feel about ourselves,” he continued. “But most of the art today affirms commonly held views of our society. You either fit in or you perish.”

In the first line, you could well replace “artists” with “scientists”.  All in all—and this is not something I would have said two years ago—this forced ideological conformity is turning American culture into a modern version of the culture of Stalin’s Russia. In such a situation, quality is always eroded by ideology. And it’s not like this is the view of most people, because it isn’t. It’s the doing of a fraction of the populace who happen to be both loud and into grabbing power.

The kerfuffle over “Latinx”

January 27, 2023 • 9:20 am

Inside Higher Ed, the downmarket version of Chronicles of Higher Education, has published a piece by Bryan Betancur, assistant professor of Spanish at Furman University and a Colombian-American who writes about issues concerning Latinos.  But Betancur would not say “Latinos” as he argues in the following long op-ed, nor would he say “Latinx” which he (and a lot of genuine Latinos as well as yours truly) despises. Betancur’s article is twice as long as it should be, but he does make a couple of good points.

First, he notes, as we already know, that Americans of Latin-America ancestry generally dislike the term “Latinx”:

. . . U.S. politicians (primarily Democrats) continue using “Latinx” in social media posts despite growing evidence that only a small fraction of U.S. adults who identify as Latino or Hispanic (just 3 percent) refer to themselves as Latinx, while as many as four in 10 members of this heterogenous population find the term irksome or offensive.

Check out the links; he’s right.

As you may know, “Latinx” was a term developed by academics and promulgated mainly by the self-styled “in the know” progressive Democrats as the plural for people of Latin-American extraction. Since a male is a “Latino” and a female a “Latina”, it seemed to the wokerati a bit misogynistic to make the word for a group of people the same as the plural for “man”: “Latinos”. They therefore appended an “x” to “Latin,” creating an unpronounceable but ideologically acceptable term. (The same has been done to “women”, getting rid of the offensive “men” part by replacing the “e” with an “x”, creating the equally unpronounceable “womxn”. There’s also the alternative “womyn,” which is touted as less inclusive!

My own objection to “Latinx” is that you can’t pronounce it, and it’s also a performative and nearly useless change that was done to flaunt the virtue of the “progressive” people who confected and who use it. It’s especially bad because Hispanics (the term I use) do not like it or use it, either.

But apparently Betancur agrees with the objectionable nature of “Latinos” as a plural. But his objections aren’t quite the same as the ones given above, for he is woke.  He sees Latinx as non-inclusive.

a.) You can’t pronounce it, and that’s an issue for many Hispanics who don’t speak English (“Latinx” can’t be pronounced in Spanish), and who rely more on verbal rather than written communication.

My perspective on “Latinx” changed in 2019 when my mom, who only speaks to me in Spanish, asked me to explain the term’s significance. More accurately, she tried to reference the identifier but was unsure how to pronounce it. Her uncertainty granted me new insight into my discomfort with the term “Latinx.” I could explain gender-inclusive language to my mom but could only spell out terms like queridx, because these words cannot be pronounced in Spanish. The battle against grammatical gender was inaccessible to my mom, who did not attend college and was not about to read a jargony essay on the subject.

If this new linguistic practice did not lend itself to a simple oral explanation to my mom, it also excluded much of my family and the immigrant community in which I grew up. What’s more, the allegedly inclusive language also left out a significant portion of my students at Bronx Community College, many of whom come from backgrounds like mine. I finally understood that the knee-jerk aversion I felt toward “Latinx” stemmed from an unconscious recognition that this linguistic practice was not as inclusive as its many adherents, including myself, claimed.

Following that conversation, I scoured the internet for critiques of “Latinx” and found an edifying interview with Mexican linguist Concepción Company. Company asserts that using language in a manner that yields words such as amigx privileges writing over orality and excludes groups, such as some Indigenous communities, that lack formal writing systems These populations are thus denied equal opportunity to participate in activism via language. My family, my community and my students were not the only ones left out of the Latinx conversation.

b.) The term is therefore not inclusive but divisive:

My perspective on “Latinx” changed in 2019 when my mom, who only speaks to me in Spanish, asked me to explain the term’s significance. More accurately, she tried to reference the identifier but was unsure how to pronounce it. Her uncertainty granted me new insight into my discomfort with the term “Latinx.” I could explain gender-inclusive language to my mom but could only spell out terms like queridx, because these words cannot be pronounced in Spanish. The battle against grammatical gender was inaccessible to my mom, who did not attend college and was not about to read a jargony essay on the subject.

. . . If this new linguistic practice did not lend itself to a simple oral explanation to my mom, it also excluded much of my family and the immigrant community in which I grew up. What’s more, the allegedly inclusive language also left out a significant portion of my students at Bronx Community College, many of whom come from backgrounds like mine. I finally understood that the knee-jerk aversion I felt toward “Latinx” stemmed from an unconscious recognition that this linguistic practice was not as inclusive as its many adherents, including myself, claimed.

In other words, he’s using a woke argument against a woke term (my bolding):

Arguments that emphasize the use of “Latinx” among English speakers implicitly separate persons of Latin American descent into two groups: monolingual Spanish speakers and those who were born in the U.S. and primarily speak English. This de facto division runs counter to assertions that “Latinx” denotes inclusivity. Some descendants of Latin American immigrants might not feel a strong attachment to Spanish, but that does not mean the language in its spoken form ought to be dismissed. For the more than 460 million native speakers in the world, Spanish is not an abstract remnant of colonialism but a lived means of communication. Expecting a multinational ethnic group to tolerate language simply because it is acceptable to English speakers is linguistic imperialism under the guise of social progress.

Following that conversation, I scoured the internet for critiques of “Latinx” and found an edifying interview with Mexican linguist Concepción Company. Company asserts that using language in a manner that yields words such as amigx privileges writing over orality and excludes groups, such as some Indigenous communities, that lack formal writing systems These populations are thus denied equal opportunity to participate in activism via language. My family, my community and my students were not the only ones left out of the Latinx conversation.

So what term does the sweating professor want to use? I guess “Hispanic” isn’t good enough (I suppose you could make some kind of argument for geographical accuracy, but do we really care?) As the Pew Poll notes, most people of “Latino” extraction in the U.S. actually prefer “Hispanic”:

A majority (61%) say they prefer Hispanic to describe the Hispanic or Latino population in the U.S., and 29% say they prefer Latino. Meanwhile, just 4% say they prefer Latinx to describe the Hispanic or Latino population.

But Betancur likes the new term “Latine”, with the neutral “e” at the end, a usage that, he says, is gaining ground in Latin America in terms like “amigues” for “friends.” It is not only inclusive, but easy to pronounce:

But when it comes to “Latinx” and “Latine,” the question is not a matter of personal choice, as many claim. This assertion creates a false equivalence between the terms. I use “Latine” because inclusive language should not value literacy over orality, English over Spanish, or the ivory tower over the greater community.

But why not “Hispanic”?

This is, of course, a tempest in a teapot. I could just as well campaign for the elimination of “Jews” as a pejorative plural, and insist on using “Jewish people” to emphasize our status as human beings. But I can’t be bothered. (Of course, “Jewess” is no longer a viable word for a Jewish female (have they been erased?), so perhaps even “Jews”, construed as plural for the formerly male term “Jew”, should now be “Jewx”.)

From the Pew Poll:


h/t: Wayne

Crowdsourcing the best arguments for DEI initiatives

September 30, 2022 • 10:45 am

Reader Karl, who is investigating the relative benefits and harms of DEI initiatives in “scholarly life” (I presume he means “universities”), and like a good Mills-ian, he’s trying to find the best arguments on each side.  I gave him some possible resources, but he would like to crowdsource the answer to the question he poses below. I, too, would like to know the best arguments in favor of the side that I often criticize. So, if you don’t mind, try answering Karl’s question in the comments:

My question is: what are the strongest arguments for making DEI activities a required part of scholarly life? Who has articulated these arguments most clearly? I’m not asking for you to reply to me personally or do my homework for me. This might might be a fun/useful thing to poll the WEIT readership about.

Well, I’m not taking a poll, but you can suggest readings and arguments.


The Academic Freedom Alliance denounces required diversity statements for academic positions

August 22, 2022 • 10:30 am

Even if you’re in favor of efforts to increase diversity in colleges and organizations, as I am, and favor some form of affirmative action, as I do, that doesn’t mean you should endorse the use of “diversity statements” when applying for jobs and promotions, which I don’t. They are an affirmation of political fealty which does not belong in the hiring process. There are an infinite number of moral, ideological, and political affirmations that could be required to accompany job applications, and none of them are appropriate, for they all dilute the purpose and mission of a university as defined by the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report:

A university has a great and unique role to play in fostering the development of social and political values in a society. The role is defined by the distinctive mission of the university and defined too by the distinctive characteristics of the university as a community. It is a role for the long term.

The mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge.

It’s as simple as that.

Yet diversity statements for hiring are proliferating to the point where it’s unusual for a university not to require them.  The University of California system, for example, not only requires statements for applicants, but grades them in three areas: what the applicant’s record for promoting diversity has been, what their philosophy of diversity is, and how the applicant proposes to promote diversity at the school if they’re hired. If you don’t make the cut with your diversity statement—a sure job-killer is to affirm Dr. King’s philosophy to judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin—your application goes no further. It gets binned.

The Academic Freedom Alliance, now just behind FIRE in its reputation and power to defend academic freedom, has just issued a call for the end of these statements. You can see the announcement by clicking on the link below:

And the official AFA statement is here.  I’ll quote an excerpt from that statement giving the rationale for the AFA’s position.

The practice that prompts our concern are requirements that members or prospective members of faculties submit statements in which they are forced to detail ways in which they have advanced or plan to advance “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). A school of engineering requires that all applications for faculty positions include “a statement of your experience with or knowledge of inclusion, diversity, equity, and belonging efforts and your plans for incorporating them into your teaching, research, mentoring, and service.” A school of medicine has proposed that faculty members “be required to show effort toward advancing DEI in at least one mission area for which they are evaluated by including a short narrative DEI summary in their personal statement and by listing DEI-related activities on their CVs.” A history department directs applicants to submit a diversity statement that ‘highlights an understanding of the role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in a university setting. Please include examples from past experiences and reference plans to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in your teaching, research, and service.”

Requirements for diversity statements have spread quickly and will continue to do so absent a determined effort to persuade academia to reconsider a practice with conspicuously disturbing features.

Academics seeking employment or promotion will almost inescapably feel pressured to say things that accommodate the perceived ideological preferences of an institution demanding a diversity statement, notwithstanding the actual beliefs or commitments of those forced to speak. This scenario is inimical to fundamental values that should govern academic life. The demand for diversity statements enlists academics into a political movement, erasing the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity. It encourages cynicism and dishonesty. An industry of diversity statement “counselling” has already emerged–and could easily have been predicted. There are prevalent and reasonable suspicions that beneath the stated rationales for diversity statements lurk unstated motives that include providing a way to screen out candidates who express ambivalence about DEI programming

The header page above gives quotes from several of the AFA’s members, including some who drafted the statement. Here’s one:

Regarding the AFA’s statement, Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University*, said, “The danger that mandatory DEI statements would function as ideological loyalty oaths worried academic freedom advocates and other civil libertarians from the start. Experience, far from diminishing that worry, has heightened it.”

I don’t have much to say about this position except that I agree with it: statements of ideological fealty should not be part of university job applications—or indeed of applications for nearly any job.

Fortunately, these statements are forbidden at the University of Chicago by another report I haven’t mentioned, the Shils Report, which sets out the criteria for academic appointments. Made policy in 1970, the report in its entirety (it’s 23 pages long) is here. Here’s the relevant statement from page 5:

“There must be no consideration of sex, ethnic or national characteristics, or political or religious beliefs or affiliations in any decision regarding appointment, promotion, or reappointment at any level of the academic staff.”

Note that DEI statements can fall under ethnicity, but certainly fall under “political or religious beliefs or affiliations.”

Of course departments here try to get around this requirement, but they also get called on it and are forced to abide by Shils.

One curious aspect, though, is although we prohibit the use of DEI statements, we provide a lot of resources to our own students to write them. Here’s a U of C site that helps our students write their statements and shows some examples (from the University of California at San Diego!). Now I can understand that, while we prohibit diversity statements, we must nonetheless help our own students prepare for jobs at the many schools that do require them. Still, it gives me a bit of a queasy feeling— as if we’re trying to teach our students how to distort and exaggerate to further their careers.

Let’s face it: nearly every applicant such statements will be full of distortions and exaggerations. And this is what we encourage in the name of ideology.