Universities better get ahead of surging anti-woke backlash. The most Americans of every political stripe gagged last week seeing three leading university presidents’ Congressional testimony on anti-semitism. After years of punishment and censorship of centrist and conservative viewpoints at their schools and others across America, none of the three could say that calls for genocide against Jews violated their schools’ codes of conduct.
America saw through the hypocrisy — and many saw its root cause as well, which is the diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy dominating most schools. The left’s Fareed Zakaria, was among them, putting it this way:
People sense the transformation…. Having coddled so many student groups for so long, university administrators found themselves squirming…. What we saw in the House hearing this week was the inevitable result of decades of the politicization of universities. Out of this culture of diversity has grown the collection of ideas and practices that we have all now heard of — safe spaces, trigger warnings, and micro aggressions…. America’s top colleges are no longer seen as bastions of excellence but as partisan outfits, which means they will keep getting buffeted by these political storms as they emerge.
Universities face a reckoning. The University of Pennsylvania’s president already lost her job over it. Others likely will follow. The University of Wisconsin perhaps figured this out. On Friday, it announced a deal with critics that would freeze hiring for diversity positions through the end of 2026 and shift at least 43 diversity positions to focus on “student success.” The system also would eliminate any statements supporting diversity on student applications. However, the Board of Regents rejected the deal on Saturday.
Perhaps most impactful, donors have revolted, and if anything gets the attention of university bureaucrats it’s money.
It’s time for universities to do what’s right, which happens also happens to be in their own interest.
Among Illinois schools, one maintains a policy that most conspicuously enforces the culture of DEI oppression Zakaria described. That’s the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with its mandatory DEI loyalty policy for faculty. It’s called Communication 9 and was finalized earlier this year. It’s summarized here and detailed here. Compliance is “optional” currently but becomes mandatory in two years.
It’s particularly egregious because it goes further than demanding agreement with DEI principles: It mandates DEI work and requires annual statements demonstrating that work. Going forward evaluations, promotions and tenure decisions must be based in part on the adequacy of the DEI work performed, Communication 9 says. It doesn’t matter what field one is in; all faculty are bound by it.
“Engage in DEI activism, or else.” That’s how The College Fix put it in their headline when Communication 9 was in draft last year.
The policy even mandates use of woke language in the required personal DEI statements:
“Candidates should be sensitive about the use of language that perpetuate prejudices and words that apply external value judgments that minimize the experiences, strengths, and contributions of individuals and/or groups historically marginalized and/or underrepresented in academia.”
“It is important that candidates avoid statements that overgeneralize or make sweeping claims about a group of people,” says the policy.
Communication 9 begs for litigation as a violation of the First Amendment, as we wrote when it was in draft. It’s a classic example of unconstitutional “forced speech.” Two First Amendment experts we spoke to compared it to unconstitutional loyalty oaths required during the years of McCarthyism.
Ending Communication 9 would also help cut some of the DEI administrative bloat that plagues U of I, which is among the worst on that count. It ranks seventh highest in the nation with 71 DEI staff, according to a Heritage Foundation study we reported on last year.
“A review of salary data shows that the universities of Michigan, Maryland, Virginia and Illinois, plus Virginia Tech, boast some of the highest-paid DEI staffers at public universities,” said a Fox News column on that study.
“These institutions’ top diversity employees earn salaries ranging from $329,000 to $430,000 – vastly eclipsing the average pay for the schools’ full-time tenured professors.” Sean C. Garrick, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Illinois, earned nearly $330,000 annually, salary disclosures showed, according to the Fox column. But the average Illinois full-time professor salary hovers only around $152,000, Fox said.
Many other universities require DEI statements and have bloated DEI staffs like UIUC on which they, too, should backtrack. But UIUC seems among the worst with its Communication 9, and it should lead.
UIUC is a superb school in most other ways and an exceptionally valuable research institution. It, along with some of our other universities, are priceless Illinois assets.
They better act before they face the wrath of unhappy donors and Americans fed up with DEI excess.