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Universities Have Turned Into Illiberal Social Justice Factories
And DEI commisars have taken over.
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It’ll likely come as little surprise that college campuses in America lean left. In 2018, Mitchell Langbert compared the voter registrations of faculty at top liberal arts colleges and found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 10 to 1. Fields with Democrat-to-Republican ratios greater than 40 to 1 were art, sociology, and English.
This ideological imbalance has been especially consequential during the postmodernist woke era, a time when colleges have effectively become breeding grounds for left-wing orthodoxy.
More and more academics now see universities not as knowledge factories guided by the pursuit of truth, but as bureaucracies that must demonstrate hypersensitivity on issues ranging from pronoun use and trigger warnings to gender-neutral bathrooms and “equity.” Academic excellence is now of secondary importance. Indeed, most faculty seem to be under the impression that the purpose of scholarship is to bring about “social justice,” and the purpose of education is to train students to be more effective social justice warriors who mimic the moral certainty of the Left. Students are no longer taught how to think, but what to think.
Praetorian bloat, gender ideology, race essentialism, propagandic, jargon-filled research, and campus-wide intolerance of diverse thought—these are the products of the new academic state religion that combines Foucauldian postmodern relativism, Soviet sclerosis, and Maoist liberticide. As faddish progressive principles are baked into the very policies of public and private education alike, universities are becoming little more than overpriced indoctrination echo chambers where equality-of-result takes precedence over merit. The situation is getting worse because most academics are now activists seeking to impose their interests and vision on the world.
What does the new normal look like in academia? Perhaps some illustrative examples are in order.
A professor of medicine within the University of California was forced to apologize for saying “pregnant women.”
Cadets at West Point, my alma mater, are forced to spend precious time learning about critical race theory.
The American Bar Association now requires all accredited law schools to provide a mandatory legal ethics class instructing students that they have a duty as lawyers to “eliminate racism.”
In 2021, Howard Bauchner, the editor in chief of JAMA, a medical journal, was fired because he promoted a podcast in which another editor suggested that poverty — not racism — was the main obstacle facing black America.
A Georgetown Law professor was forced to resign after criticizing President Joe Biden’s restriction of his pool of Supreme Court candidates by race and sex.
Eminent linguist Joshua Katz was fired by his longtime employer Princeton University in a straightforward act of political retaliation. Katz had the temerity to write an article in 2020 criticizing a letter signed by many Princeton faculty and students demanding the university undertake such “anti-racist” actions like giving extra sabbatical time to “faculty of color.”
A few years ago, three scholars worked together to write 20 fake papers using trendy academic jargon to make the argument for patently absurd conclusions. They then submitted the articles to high-profile journals in fields including gender studies, queer studies, and fat studies. Only six were rejected. To give you an idea of how ridiculous these papers were, one published in a journal called Sex Roles said that the author had conducted a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters. Another, from a journal of feminist geography, parsed “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland. A third paper, published in a journal of feminist social work and titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” simply scattered some up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Mein Kampf, the autobiographical manifesto of Adolf Hitler.
According to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 44% of medical schools have tenure policies that reward scholarship on “diversity, inclusion, and equity”; 70% make students take a course on “diversity, inclusion, or cultural competence”; and 79% require that all hiring committees receive “unconscious bias” training or include “equity advisors.”
Gregory Schulz, a tenured professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Wisconsin, was “suspended and barred from campus” following his publication of an essay critical of the school’s search for a new president who exhibits a “demonstrated belief in and commitment to equity and inclusion.”
These last two bullet points warrant further discussion. The Left is experiencing a religious revival in which group identity is deified, and diversity, equity, and inclusion principles are becoming institutionally entrenched. Universities have decided to make that toxic trinity into hiring imperatives.
DEI statements — the latest expression of critical theory in education, which are nothing short of ideological litmus tests — are now commonly required for promotion, tenure, and faculty evaluation. According to a survey by the American Association of University Professors, 82% of large universities have implemented DEI promotion and tenure criteria or are considering doing so in the future.
Unsurprisingly, California has led the way in mandating DEI statements.1 Consider the overtly ideological language crowbarred into the newly established requirements for the California Community College system—the nation’s largest system of higher education, governing 116 colleges that together enroll 1.8 million students. In May 2022, the Board of Governors approved a resolution mandating that community college districts “include DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility] competencies and criteria as a minimum standard for evaluating the performance of all employees” and that they “place significant emphasis on DEIA competencies in employee evaluation and tenure review processes.”
The resolution itself is teeming with ideological language. It defines “Cultural Competency,” for example, as “the practice of acquiring and utilizing knowledge of the intersectionality of social identities and the multiple axes of oppression that people from different racial, ethnic, and other minoritized groups face.”
And then there’s UC Berkeley, where stating your commitment to treat all students the same will earn you the lowest possible score on the school’s rubric.
Note that to get passable scores, you simply cannot just be in favor of increasing diversity, or have done only activities “that are already the expectation of faculty as evidence of commitment and involvement.” To get scores of 4 or 5, you must have considerable knowledge about diversity and intersectionality, a long track record of promoting diversity in various ways, and specific ideas of how you would advance equity and inclusion at Berkeley. One must even agree “to be a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion within the department/school/college and also their field.” That sure sounds like fealty to an ideology.
In what they have admitted is a “dramatic change” from the standard hiring process, Berkeley DEI commissars have been given veto power over which candidates the departmental hiring committees are able to consider. Candidates are being scored numerically, and only the files of those scoring high enough on the DEI rubric are passed on for scholarly review.
Senior policy analyst Andrew Gillen describes Berkeley’s recent faculty hiring thusly:
The scale of the resulting purge would make Stalin blush. Of 893 nominally qualified candidates, 679 were eliminated solely due to insufficiently woke diversity, equity and inclusion statements. In other words, Berkeley used a political litmus test to eliminate over three-quarters of the applicant pool.
The increasing prevalence of DEI statements is testament to what universities see as the goal of their institutions. This isn’t about “diversity” in the traditional sense, this is about stocking the faculty with people of a particular ideological stripe who are committed to advancing a cause. Orthodoxy is being created around ideas, erasing the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity. The reality is that DEI statements function in the same ways as declarations of faith at religious institutions. Submitting a statement that passionately extols progressive ideals about the significance of skin color and “systemic racism” and the white heteronormative patriarchy and what have you reliably signals an applicant’s loyalties.
Needless to say, requiring applicants to provide such statements all but guarantees politically moderate or conservative competitors will be passed over.2 People shouldn’t be forced, as a condition of employment, to abjure their beliefs and associations or express other beliefs, nor should they be forced to participate in activities and associations that advance other political views—like treating people differently according to their identity.
Unfortunately, institutional entrenchment of DEI programming shows no signs of slowing down. The number of DEI commissars at American universities has exploded. The University of Michigan has the most in the nation.
These commissars need a raison d’être, which is why universities are adopting “DEI strategic plans,” and new policies and initiatives created by and for DEI officers are being incorporated into many aspects of school operations at accelerating rates.
Stanford is surely among the most woke universities in the nation.
Let’s start with the McCarthy-esque “Protected Identity Harm” system, which allows students to anonymously report classmates for “exhibiting discrimination or bias.” Apparently the system had been in place since 2021, but faculty say they were unaware of it until the Stanford Daily wrote about a student who was reported for reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf. According to the executive director of Speech First, the system was widely used during the pandemic—when students were encouraged to report on classmates for not wearing masks.
“The process aims to promote a climate of respect, helping build understanding that much speech is protected while also offering resources and support to students who believe they have experienced harm based on a protected identity,” a Stanford spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
It’s little wonder why over 80% of college students say they self-censor in the classroom.
Then there’s Stanford’s index of “harmful language,” a list of words that the school sought to eliminate because the terms are “counter to inclusivity.” The 13-page guide, which was nixed only last month after widespread ridicule and criticism, contained more than 150 words and phrases organized into 10 categories of harmful language: ableist, ageism, colonialism, culturally appropriative, gender-based, imprecise language, institutionalized racism, person-first, and violent words and phrases. Among the words and phrases deemed harmful were “brave,” “seminal,” “American,” “take a shot at,” “no can do” and “submit.”
Per the guide, “brave” perpetuates the stereotype of the “noble courageous savage.” Instead of “seminal,” readers were encouraged to use “leading” or “groundbreaking,” lest male-dominated language be reinforced. “American” was frowned upon because it insinuates that the U.S. dominates the Americas. The guide also recommended that “give it a go” replace “take a shot at” to avoid violent imagery; that “no can do” be replaced by “I can’t do it,” since the former originated from stereotypes that mocked nonnative English speakers; and that “process” be used instead of “submit,” since the latter “can imply allowing others to have power over you.”
Lastly, let’s talk about the demographic profile of Stanford University’s class of 2026, which shows how much the Left’s three-headed DEI horseman influences America’s prestigious universities.
Simply put, the incoming group of 1,736 freshmen is not representative of America. One key demographic is disproportionately underrepresented: whites.3 While whites make up more than 50% of the nation’s adolescent population, they are only 22% of Stanford’s class of 2026.4
As National Review’s Nate Hochman points out, we’ve been told for decades that affirmative action is merely a progressive effort to ensure colleges are more proportionally representative of the nation’s demographics writ large. According to the New York Times, “The diversity justification allows admissions departments to put a thumb on the scale to increase the representation of some minority students whose academic credentials would otherwise be insufficient. That means campuses look more like America.”
And yet, those who point out that Stanford’s proportion of white students is drastically at odds with national demographics are accused of bigotry for assuming that minority applicants aren’t more deserving of admission. I was under the impression — per the Church of Woke — that “all disparities are proof of discrimination.” Or is it just that the affirmative action apologists now believe that equity demands the permanent marginalization of white people?
That seems to be the case. Old proportional-representation admissions quotas and traditional meritocratic standards are being replaced by “reparatory” admissions. Stanford doesn’t release the numbers of those successfully admitted without SAT tests, but recently conceded it rejects about 70% of those with perfect SAT scores. Positive discrimination in favor of protected groups has become a secular religion among the woke, and standards continue to be lowered to further minority group advantage.
Academia has been infected by the same activist tenor that has consumed so much else of public life. As Peter Boghossian puts it, universities have been transformed from bastions of free inquiry into illiberal Social Justice factories “whose only inputs are race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs are grievance and division.”
The consequences have been profound. Much of the current Jacobin revolution was birthed and fueled by American universities, which increasingly seek to engineer society in specific ways beyond teaching and helping students learn how to think clearly. As colleges abdicate their truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions, students’ education will be impoverished and society will be forced to absorb ever more ranks of activist-inclined young folks whose primary goal in life is to evolve into illiberal DSM IV-grade spazzes who find meaning and purpose in the delusive analgesic of radical politics and demand dogmatic relief from doubt.
Note how these DEI requirements also serve as an invitation to lie and distort.
And especially white males. There are more women than men in Stanford’s class of 2026—54 to 46 percent.
Interesting tidbit about Stanford: It has more administrative staff and faculty than students. Specifically, there are 15,750 administrators, 2,288 faculty members, and 16,937 students. I wonder how many DEI bureaucrats they have.