Professors Can Sabotage DEI (2024 Mar)

by Barry A. Liebling

More than half a century ago I was a student at two high-prestige universities where I got my BA and my PhD. Back in those days if you looked around you could find teachers and students that had a wide variety of philosophical and political beliefs. Still, the most common orientation that I encountered was a yearning for collectivism and a strong desire to see the United States become fully socialist.

What has changed? For a long time the leftist cabal has been the strongest, most influential coterie in higher education. But its members did not completely dominate the university. The Marxist zealots did not have the power to silence those who would dissent. The institutions of higher learning did not officially demand that faculty and administrators assert in writing that they unconditionally support the “social justice” agenda.

Recently, John Sailer, a fellow at the National Association of Scholars, published an insightful investigative article on the dominance of DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) in higher education. Note that DEI is a principal component and inseparable from the Neo-Marxist agenda to discredit and vanquish the best ideas and policies of the Enlightenment. At many of the most elite universities the default is to require faculty, administrators, and students to attend DEI classes. And the “struggle sessions” are not enough. Many institutions are hiring and promoting candidates contingent on their written pledges to push DEI in their research and teaching.

The good news is that Sailer reports that he has interviewed a lot of academic faculty members who feel intimidated by the DEI requirements. They fear that if they speak out, or do not go along, they will be penalized and their careers will suffer. Why is that good news? It shows that despite the dominance of the woke hive, there are still scholars and administrators who are repelled by the collectivist, authoritarian left.

What can (and should) an academic who endorses the best aspects of Enlightenment philosophy do in these times that are reminiscent of the dark ages? I see three plausible actions.

The first alternative is to quit. A scholar can walk away from the woke higher education jungle. New institutions of higher learning – inspired by a clean spirit – are coming into existence. If (and when) the old, leftist-dominated schools are surpassed by competitors that promote the right ideas, victory will be sweet. However, founding and nurturing a fresh batch of universities is a very expensive and time-consuming enterprise. In the most optimistic scenario, it will take many years for this to be realized.

The second choice, which is the most common, is for good academic professionals to do the best job they can in an environment that is hostile to their sensibilities. They participate and comply with the DEI mandates as little as possible. They avoid talking publicly about what they really think of the academic Ministry of Truth. Their goal is be effective teachers and researchers with the understanding that they can be punished for not cheering on the progressive-left social-justice mob.

I have sympathy for faculty members who keep a low profile in DEI-saturated institutions. They have the right to consider their own welfare while they work behind enemy lines. As long as they are not active participants in woke mischief I do not blame them.

There is a third alternative. Here I am addressing academics who feel bold about setting things right. Stay in the university. Be tactful and diplomatic while you sabotage the DEI agenda. At the same time actively promote philosophical and political actions that are consistent with the best ideas of the Enlightenment.

Here is a crucial step. Insist that your institution eliminates any requirements for faculty to sign loyalty oaths or write essays endorsing DEI. If this pernicious rule is extinguished the door is open to more faculty and students who will enter with open minds. I am aware that even if the loyalty requirement disappears, the woke university majority will do what they can to filter out anyone who dissents from their tyrannical agenda. But the bad actors will have a more difficult time getting their way.

Actively seek out other faculty members and students who are receptive to free thinking. Being able to speak candidly with others who share your world-view will strengthen your resolve. You already know that you are not alone, but affiliating and conversing with like-minded individuals can boost your effectiveness.

Practice the logical arguments that identify DEI – and all Neo-Marxist – assertions as inherently and irredeemably fallacious. But much more important, develop and sharpen your understanding of how and why the best ideas (not all the ideas, but that is another topic) of the Enlightenment are objectively correct. It is not sufficient to be against DEI. You have to be an advocate for rationality.

What should be your focus? What messages are most important? Here is a partial list. There is objective truth, which can be discovered by gathering evidence and applying logic. All human beings possess the same natural rights including life, liberty, and property. The correct way to judge every person must be based on that individual’s actions. This means that ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation (put in any group identity here) count for nothing. No person deserves praise, prizes, condemnation, or penalties for events that occurred before that person was born.

Note well that everything in the short list above is explicitly denounced by the DEI gang as pernicious old-thinking that needs to be eradicated. Give the woke mob credit for recognizing what ideas stand in the way of their insidious goals.

While the DEI pack has the upper hand in higher education today, deliberate strategic actions by brave faculty members can help to fix what is broken.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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