A judge in California has suspended the enforcement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) rules instituted by the California Community College system.
The rules, which took effect in the spring, aim to “ensure faculty and staff uphold DEI values.
According to a memo from system leaders, the rules established specific criteria to evaluate employees on their “demonstrated, or progress toward, proficiency in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility … competencies that enable work with diverse communities.”
In August, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) filed a lawsuit on behalf of six California community college professors to halt new, systemwide regulations.
The plaintiffs assert that the rules “infringe on their First Amendment rights” and “require them to incorporate ideologies they don’t support in their work or risk losing their jobs.”
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.
“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?”
“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.”
FIRE attorney Jessie Appleby explains, “Whether it’s states forcing professors to teach DEI concepts or states forcing them not to teach concepts that lawmakers deem ‘woke,’ the government can’t tell university professors what views they are or aren’t allowed to debate in the classroom.”
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.
An injunction was granted on Tuesday.
Inside Higher Ed reports:
The injunction, granted Tuesday, was in response to a lawsuit against Bakersfield College and Kern Community College District leaders filed by Daymon Johnson, a history professor at the college. His suit alleged that he and other professors were penalized for espousing conservative views under the system’s mandate and discouraged from exercising their free speech rights. The lawsuit claimed the rules were unconstitutional and called for them to be suspended.
A magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California concluded that system leaders’ “aim of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in California’s system of community colleges undoubtedly is important.” However, Johnson “has shown a likelihood of success on the merits that the regulatory scheme Defendants have put in place to advance these interests is contrary to the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech in the academic arena.”
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