Faculty, wake up to the woke agenda behind your department’s DEI program
By an anonymous STEM professor
Over the past several years, there has been an increasing push within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for what has been dubbed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, which was filmed for all to watch in horror, DEI became the main focus of nearly all aspects of STEM communication. You would be hard pressed to find a single university STEM department, professional organization, or publication that did not loudly signal their commitment to DEI, with their action plans to “do better.” While the goals of this movement certainly sound admirable, the actions taken to achieve them are doomed to fail and have harmful consequences. Whether this is due to the shortsightedness of well-intentioned people or a cynical and intentional attempt to destroy academia is less apparent.
There are many examples one can choose from to illustrate this fact, however in the interest of space, I will stick to several of the most prominent in recent news. Dalhousie University in Canada recently advertised a tenure-track position in biological chemistry that is “restricted to candidates who self-identify in one or more of the following groups: Indigenous persons, persons with a disability, racially visible persons, women, and persons of a minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” This ostensibly is an effort to increase the diversity of the faculty at Dalhousie University, which is an admirable goal, but the unintended consequences should be obvious. To begin, a common complaint from non-white and female students or faculty is that at some point they have heard something along the lines of, “you were only accepted/hired here because you’re (identity group).” This minimizes or flat out ignores the hard work and effort that people put in to reach their positions. It should be clear as day that the discriminatory hiring at Dalhousie will further reinforce this sentiment among the hired professor’s peers. It is also insulting. The underlying assumption made by this policy is that if straight white men (the only group not mentioned in the allowable group) are allowed to apply, it will unfairly hurt the chances of those mentioned because they cannot compete. I find it odd for a vocally “progressive” institution to echo the sentiments of right-wing twitter trolls, but here we are.
Similarly, the University of California at Santa Cruz has instituted a policy in which all applicants for faculty positions, including those in STEM, must have their applications screened to ensure that their DEI statements are up to snuff. Those who do not make it through this screening will not have their applications considered by their targeted department, because that department will never even see the application. Again, one can assume the good intention of wanting to make sure future faculty members care about supporting a diverse student population, but the unintended consequences should be apparent. Many qualified applicants will never have their applications considered, and chief among this group are those who are not fluent in the dialect of elite academic culture surrounding DEI. This includes those from lower and middle class backgrounds who did not attend top tier institutions for financial reasons and foreigners who are speaking English as their second (or third) language. This situation provides a textbook example of how much of the DEI culture falls under what Rob Henderson has deemed “luxury beliefs.” Luxury beliefs are impractical thoughts and ideas that people of means advocate in order to demonstrate their socioeconomic security, but which have a negative impact on the less well off. In previous eras, elites signaled their status through designer labels and expensive cars. Luxury beliefs now serve the same signaling purpose.
We could go on, showing how DEI strategies have adverse effects that might be interpreted as unintended consequences, but the reader can surely find more examples. It is worth considering another, more sinister, explanation for recent DEI idea pathogens. That explanation is that the adverse effects are not unintended consequences, but rather the ultimate intention of critical social justice (CSJ) activists. Consider the following language in the advertisement from Dalhousie University: “Racially visible persons.” The average person not exposed to CSJ may think this just means anyone. Everyone has a race that is visible, right? But in CSJ-speak, this is another way of saying “non-white people,” based on the idea that white people invented the concept of race to describe non-white people in order to oppress them. This exposes the fact that this effort is informed entirely by CSJ, despite coming from a STEM department. In the UCSC example, the screening is a clear and unquestionable ideological test. In this review, CSJ activists can easily weed out anyone who does not share their politics, worldview, commitment to DEI, and, importantly, class. Very likely, racial screening occurs as well, where whites and Asians are removed, and a sub-par DEI statement is given as the reason. Erecting such political and racial barriers for entry into STEM departments would be anathema to anyone primarily interested in advancing scientific knowledge. And so the true goal of DEI programs becomes clear: to gain control of and sabotage the scientific enterprise, which is viewed from within the CSJ framework as irredeemably tied to traditional power structures, racism, sexism, etc. Flying under the cover of simply wishing to provide opportunities to all, this true goal stays largely hidden from the view of both lay people outside academia and those faculty truly committed to pursuing knowledge within it.
And this brings me to the point of this short essay. Many faculty in STEM are seeing what is happening around them with respect to DEI and think everyone agrees with it, and don’t object. They stay quiet either because they are too focused on other things (being a professor is a time-consuming job), or they know that speaking up may get them branded a racist, sexist, bigot, etc. This is because CSJ activists are good at creating an atmosphere where it appears that they have the moral high ground and wide-spread consensus. They do not. Many think that these efforts are misguided at best, or politically motivated at worst. But until faculty begin objecting, CSJ activists will continue their long march through the universities unabated, and that march is not directed toward a place with which most faculty would be comfortable. It is time for faculty to begin pushing back on these efforts. Not doing so passively allows for discrimination to occur, and surrenders STEM departments to the ideological capture of CSJ activists. The effects of this are already becoming dire, and are moving into the realm of public policy. Consider that the New York Department of Health recently published guidance that monoclonal antibody should be administered on the basis of race. The CDC considered doing the same with COVID-19 vaccines.
There are ways to push back respectfully. This should be done by all, but those with the protection of tenure have a larger responsibility to do so. Educate yourself on CSJ. There are easy to comprehend books and websites that can teach you the history and vocabulary (Counter Wokecraft by Pincourt and Lindsay, Cynical Theories by Pluckrose and Lindsay, or the New Discourses encyclopedia of Social Justice Terminology). Ask questions. If your department is rejecting an applicant because of race/sex, ask for instructions to do this in writing and an evaluation of the plan by the university’s general council. If an applicant does not have a DEI statement that is sufficiently steeped in CSJ-speak, ask why this should prevent him/her from teaching a course on differential equations. Be prepared to be countered with technical academic CSJ jargon, or a motte and bailey logical trick. Calmly and politely call these out, and insist on hiring the best candidate for the job. Those who oppose you will do so in the name of “social justice.” Ask how it is just to discriminate based on immutable characteristics, exacerbate racial tensions, and subject students paying high tuition (often with loans that will take a decade or more to repay) to anything but the best teachers and mentors.