California community colleges impose political litmus test

On May 5, the California Community Colleges (CCC) Chancellor’s Office system changed its proposed Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) competencies. Released in March, the original proposal sought to establish “diversity” and “anti-racism” ratings for every employee in the 116-college system — a political litmus test. The recently released changes are only cosmetic, indicating that despite the proposal’s notable pushback, it will likely become policy.

While DEI requirements are rapidly becoming mainstream, CCC’s proposal stands out for its rigor and ideological aggressiveness. He defines “cultural competence” as “the practice of acquiring and using knowledge about the intersectionality of social identities and the multiple axes of oppression faced by people from different racial, ethnic and other minority groups”. It calls on all community college districts to “include the DEIA competencies and criteria as a minimum standard for evaluating the performance of all employees” and to “emphasize the DEIA competencies in employee evaluation processes and tenure review to support employee growth, development and career advancement.”

The Chancellor’s Office also provides a list of skills. Some of them: “Includes DCI and race-conscious pedagogy,” “Contributes to DCI research and scholarship and anti-racism,” and “Engages in self-assessment of own commitment to DEI and internal biases, and seeks opportunities for growth to recognize and address the harm caused by internal biases and behaviors.

Requiring faculty to adopt the politically charged concepts of “intersectionality” and “multiple axes of oppression” clearly violates academic freedom, but the CCC system seems unperturbed by this perspective. Last year, a working group for the system’s curriculum committee created guidelines called “DEI in the Curriculum: Model Principles and Practices,” which explain what “DEI and race-conscious pedagogy looks like.” ” In practice. One of the “culturally appropriate classroom practices” recommended by the document reads: “Protect the cultural integrity of an academic discipline to support equity by no longer weaponizing ‘academic integrity’ and “academic freedom” that hinder equity and inflict curricular trauma on our students, especially historically marginalized students.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the proposal was largely rebuffed. The Foundation for Equal Rights in Education called the policy “unacceptable and unconstitutional”. The Pacific Legal Foundation condemned it in equally strong terms: “The proposed settlement will entrench political orthodoxy, reduce intellectual diversity on college campuses, threaten First Amendment freedoms, and undermine the education of deserving students.” to be exposed to a rich and robust array of viewpoints. on the critical issues facing our country. Even Brian Leiter, a University of Chicago law professor and certainly no conservative, agreed with the Pacific Legal Foundation’s First Amendment argument, noting on his blog that the “letter is right about constitutional infirmities.” .

But the criticisms seem to have fallen on deaf ears, so innocuous are the new amendments. According to the changes, assessors must have a “consistent” rather than “uniform” understanding of the DEIA assessment process. Cultural competence involves “the development of cultural knowledge” rather than “the learning of specific sets of cultural knowledge”. The core idea of ​​the policy, namely that every employee of America’s largest higher education system will be evaluated on their political beliefs, remains unchanged.

Those interested in higher education should pay special attention to it. After all, DEI skills for promotion and tenure are the next big thing. Recently, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that it will require diversity statements from all faculty members seeking promotion or tenure. Northern Arizona University’s Diversity Strategic Plan promises to integrate diversity “as an important component of learning outcomes, professional development, performance expectations, and performance reviews at all levels.”

Even seemingly apolitical disciplines, such as medicine, have followed suit. New UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine promotion and tenure guidelines require each candidate to submit a diversity statement and include diversity contributions on their resume. (The guidelines provide a list of sample activities.) Oregon Health and Science University’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Strategic Action Plan establishes a policy of similar promotion and tenure, promising to “include a section in promotion kits where faculty members report on how they are helping to improve DEI, anti-racism, and social justice. Reinforce the importance of these efforts by establishing clear consequences and influences on advocacy programs. »

California often functions as a proving ground for the rest of the nation. What happens in California rarely stays in California, especially if it is an “innovation” in progressive politics. We should hope that this overt political litmus test will be unequivocally rejected. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely.

Photo: rarrarorro/iStock

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