For years, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) “experts” have convinced college presidents to make DEI part of campus life. But lawmakers, federal investigators, and judges are not persuaded. They point to DEI offices’ racial bias and Orwellian programs as reasons to close the departments.
DEI staffers have not proved to be experts in free-speech law. Nor are they skilled in writing school policies that protect free expression. And their policies and programs have not created “inclusive” environments at colleges.
Social media are replete with videos of students and professors tearing down flyers portraying Israelis kidnapped by Hamas, for example. The video of Jewish students trapped inside the library at Cooper Union in New York City while protesters bang on the doors outside is required viewing for anyone unsure of the condition of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” on campus.
It’s abysmal. And DEI offices and the programs they sponsor, such as “bias-response teams” (BRTs), are not helping.
The outbreak of antisemitism on campus is just the latest problem. DEI offices have been part of Soviet-style investigations of students based on anonymous reports for many years. BRTs, which are often overseen by or operate under DEI offices, allow individuals on campus to anonymously report something as small as a passing comment or a poster, and the report could trigger an investigation by administrators.
Cherise Trump, executive director of the student advocacy organization Speech First, said in an email, “The mere existence of an administrative body specifically designated to receive anonymous reports on incidents of ‘bias’ echoes sentiments of darker times and repressive regimes.”
Opinions from several federal judges and statements from the U.S. Department of Justice in cases challenging DEI-related activities have said these programs “dampen” or “chill” speech. Some schools have settled lawsuits filed against them for their BRTs by agreeing to scuttle these policies. The University of Michigan abandoned its BRT in 2018, which operated under its DEI program.
Speech First filed the lawsuit against the University of Michigan and has brought similar suits against UT-Austin, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Illinois, to name a few. In a case that Speech First won against the University of Central Florida, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said, “We think it clear that the average student would be intimidated, and quite possibly silenced, by the [bias-response] policy.”
For those wondering why lawmakers in Texas and Florida adopted laws earlier this year that prohibited the use of taxpayer funding for DEI offices, the court rulings against BRTs provide ample reasoning. DEI administrators are often the leaders of or at least willing participants in the teams’ intimidating activities.
Schools such as Carnegie Mellon University should be on notice. University administrators just announced the creation of a “bias reporting protocol,” which allows anyone on campus—even someone out for a stroll around school grounds—to anonymously file a report that they saw or heard “bias-related behavior.” School officials say the new system will not “initiate or conduct investigations” but will “review and address incidents.”
It’s not clear what the difference is between “initiate or conduct” and “review and address.” Carnegie Mellon is a private university and generally not subject to the Constitution’s free-speech requirements, but officials should still be forewarned: Courts and federal investigators have not been kind to schools that issue policies based on obscure language.
The Justice Department called Michigan’s harassment and bullying policies “vague” and “overbroad” in the case the school settled with Speech First, while the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion in the Central Florida case said the “vagueness” of the university’s bias-response policy “exacerbates the chill that the average student would feel.”
More state legislators should follow the example set by Texas and Florida and close DEI offices on campus, along with all the offices’ related programs, starting with bias-response teams. Meanwhile, high-profile donors are reconsidering giving to their alma maters after the latest antisemitic incidents.
Administrators at schools such as Carnegie Mellon should notice how lawmakers are disassembling DEI programs at other schools. Universities can close the offices willingly, after the embarrassing press release that follows a defeat in court, or following a drop in fundraising. In any case, the departments will not stand.
This piece originally appeared in the National Review