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California Community Colleges (Photo: cccco.edu)

More Professors Sue CA Community Colleges over DEIA Teaching Mandates

Government is forcing professors to teach and preach a politicized viewpoint they do not share

By Evan Gahr, August 30, 2023 2:28 pm

More professors are suing on First Amendment grounds over diversity equity and inclusion and accessibility teaching requirements at California community colleges.

As the California Globe reported, a professor at Bakersfield College this July sued over the tyrannical diversity dictates.

Now in August, six more professors at California community colleges have filed a similar First Amendment lawsuit over the teaching requirements. The professors teach humanities and sciences at community colleges in the Fresno area that are part of the State Center Community College District  They are being represented by the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individuals Rights and  Expression (FIRE).

FIRE lawyer Daniel Ortner told the California Globe that the DEIA regulations violate the First Amendment because they simultaneously compel and restrict speech. “The DEIA Rules both compel professors to endorse and promote contested viewpoints like “anti-racism” and “intersectionality” and prohibit them from expressing contrary views (such as by suggesting that such views would be “curricular trauma”),” he emailed.

Ortner has previously called the regulations a “totalitarian triple whammy” because the “government is forcing professors to teach and preach a politicized viewpoint they do not share, imposing incomprehensible guidelines, and threatening to punish professors when they cross an arbitrary, indiscernible line.”

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the the Eastern District of California for the Fresno Division. The defendants are California Community Colleges Chancellor  Sonya Christian, the California Community Colleges State Board of Governors, State Center Community College Chancellor Carole Goldsmith and the district’s Board of Trustees.

The lawsuit says the DEIA rules are “an unconstitutional blanket restriction on college faculty’s speech on matters of public concern” and that they force the professors to promote views with which they disagree. “California Community Colleges’ new [DEIA] rules force professors to endorse the government’s view on politically charged questions regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.”

Professors’ performance evaluations now turn on adhering to the DEIA regulations in the classroom, leaving professors vulnerable to the threat of dismissal for poor performance if they do not toe the state’s line.  That is why the lawsuit says the regulations are so coercive. “Plaintiffs risk termination if they fail to embrace the new DEIA Rules But if Plaintiffs attempt to comply with the DEIA Rules, they will be forced to alter their curriculum and teaching methods, parrot the government’s views, and abandon their academic freedom.”

Moreover, the “DEIA Rules require Plaintiffs to espouse the state’s message in order to teach at State Center and condition Plaintiffs’ performance evaluation, at least in part, on their fealty to the government’s preferred message on concepts such as Equity,intersectionionality and anti-racism.

“Plaintiffs disagree with and do not want to endorse the state’s perspective regarding DEIA against their own deeply held philosophical moral, and religious views,” the lawsuit says.  “The DEIA Rules dictate not only what Plaintiffs may say, but how they must say it. it. For instance, their language must be consistent with “an equity mindset” and a “collectivism perspective.”

There is no room left for dissent or academic freedom. “By barring faculty from presenting alternative viewpoints while requiring the inclusion of the state accepted view on DEIA, the DEIA Rules require Plaintiffs to endorse the state’s message.”

The DEIA requirements were issued by the California Community College’s Chancellors office this March. They say that “Faculty members shall employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect DEIA [diversity equity inclusion and accessibility] and anti-racist principles” and that schools should “place significant emphasis on DEIA competencies in employee evaluation and tenure review.”

The DEIA “competencies” that California is requiring community college professors to espouse make diversity equity and inclusion the only world view acceptable.  Competency means a professor “Promotes and incorporates DEI and anti-racist pedagogy. And he or she also “Develops and implements a pedagogy and/or curriculum that promotes a race-conscious and intersectional lens.”

And the competent professor must articulate “the importance and impact of DEI and anti-racism as part of the institution’s greater mission.”

The rules even explicitly degrade academic freedom. They require “culturally responsive classroom practices” and encourage faculty to “take care not to ‘weaponize’ academic freedom and integrity as tools to impede equity in an academic discipline.”

And it sounds like there is lots of self-flagellation required in which people call themselves bigoted. Professors are required to take part in a “continuous cycle of self-assessment of one’s growth and commitment to DEI and acknowledgement of any internalized personal biases and racial superiority or inferiority.”

The ideal professor also contributes to “DEI and anti-racism research and scholarship” and “advocates for and advances DEI and anti-racist goals and initiatives.”

The California Community Colleges Chancellors office also has a glossary of terms that make everything about race. In fact, talk about merit is deemed a stalking horse for white supremacy.  Merit is defined as a ruse that perpetuates “white privilege under the guise of standards.”

State Center Community College District. (Photo: scccd.edu)

The glossary also deems color blindness, which was the basis of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream speech” and the lodestar of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to be an offensive and retrograde term. It says color blindness is a “racial ideology” which “perpetuates racial inequalities and denies systematic racism.”

These expansive definitions in the glossary, the lawsuit says, show how  Plaintiffs and other community college professors will be required to endorse the State’s preferred viewpoint or be accused of “protect[ing] White Privilege”or “perpetuat[ing] racial inequalities and den[ying] systematic racism.”

The lawsuit describes in great detail how the six professors suing are free thinkers who reject the world view of diversity and “anti-racism” cult that defines people solely by their skin color, obliterating individuality and agency. The six plaintiffs are Madera Community College philosophy professor Loren Palsgaard; Madera Community College history professor James Druley; Madera  Community College history professor David Richardson; Madera Community College chemistry  professor Linda De Morales; chemistry professor Bill Blanken of Reedley Community College, and philosophy professor Michael Stannard of Clovis Community College.

The lawsuit says, for example, that “Professor Druley believes that the best remedy to racism is to not consider race at all. He therefore rejects the type of Anti-racism that the DEIA Rules require him to endorse teach, and demonstrate.”

Furthermore, “Druley believes that it is impossible to teach ethics without talking about ‘merit’ as a positive moral concept. It is also important to recognize meritorious work on the part of students, and so Druley also objects to any efforts to eliminate merit in assigning grades or to take equity into account in assigning grades because he believes it is important to recognize his student’s meritorious work. But if he continues to demand and teach the virtues of ‘merit’ he risks being accused of ‘protect[ing] White Privilege under the guise of standards’ in violation of the DEIA rules.”

Also, “Druley believes that the best remedy to racism is to not consider race at all. He therefore rejects the type of Anti -racism that the DEIA Rules require him to endorse teach, and demonstrate.”

Similarly, Loren Palsgaard, the English professor, feels the DEIA regulations infringe on his academic freedom, interfering with what materials he teaches in the classroom, the lawsuit explains. “As an English instructor Palsgaard wants his students to explore topics of public concern from multiple perspectives while observing a code of mutual respect. Palsgaard has concluded that if he discusses controversial issues in DEIA matters or presents competing views on those issues, he will be [per the regulations]  deemed insufficiently “anti -racist or accused of Weaponiz[ing] academic freedom” and “inflict[ing] curricular trauma” on his students.”

“For instance, Palsgaard used to assign students Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia. But he will no longer assign these books as a result of the DEIA Rules, because King’s letter includes a racial slur and Both King and Hanson offer perspectives that are different from the “anti-racism” and “intersectionality” perspective mandated by the DEIA Rules. Palsgaard similarly used to assign pieces by William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor but no longer assigns them because their books contain racial slurs.”

But “Palsgaard fears that if he assigns authors like King, Hanson, Faulkner, and O’Connor to students, he will be accused of “ Weaponiz[ing] academic freedom” and “inflict[ing] curricular trauma.”

Philosophy professor Michaell Stannard fears he will be fired when gets his next performance evaluation for failing to adhere to the DEIA regulations that he finds so offensive, the lawsuit says. “Stannard believes that the use of “culturally affirming language” that speaks to people differently based on their race or ethnicity is patronizing, offensive, and isolates students based on race or ethnicity. He will not use it.”

“In his Logic  class, Stannard has students read a New York Times op-ed by Abigail Thernstrom titled ‘Testing the Easy Target,’ which argues against efforts to eliminate standardized testing to eliminate racial disparities. Stannard asks his students to identify the author’s thesis and discuss the structure of her argument. But Stannard fears that if he continues to share this article with students he will be accused of Contradicting the ‘race conscious and intersectional’ viewpoints that the DEIA Rules demand and “inflicting curricular trauma” on his students.”

Also, “Stannard assigns students Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail because it connects the pursuit of social justice to natural law and faith. But he Is reconsidering whether he can assign this letter because it includes a racial slur and offers a different Perspective from the “anti-racism” and “intersectionality” perspective mandated by the DEIA Rules.”

Yes, that is correct. The writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. are considered offensive and verboten under California Community Colleges diversity requirements.

The defendants have not yet responded to the lawsuit. But their response is likely to be similar to what Bakersfield College, sued in July, offered as a response in a brief filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Bonta’s office argued that the DEIA regulations are permissible and do not violate the First Amendment because they regulate conduct, not speech.

Daniel Ortner, the FIRE lawyer, told the California Globe that argument is ludicrous.

“The DEIA Rules regulate what professors teach in the classroom,” he emailed. “They are intended to alter the curriculum and to introduce DEIA and anti-racism principles into what is taught. This is not a regulation of conduct, but pure speech. The DEIA Rules require each district to adopt the requirements and evaluate faculty based on their compliance. This is exactly what State Center Community College District* has done with its Faculty Contract. There is nothing optional or merely aspirational about it.”

“Plaintiffs are going to [be] forced to teach and preach DEIA concepts like anti-racism and intersectionality and they are warning by documents that the State Chancellor has published that offering alternative viewpoints might be considered ‘weaponizing academic freedom’ and ‘inflicting curricular trauma’ on their students. This has a chilling effect where Plaintiffs do not know whether they can assign books or articles including the seminal Civil Rights document Letter from Birmingham Jail and many other examples we [identify] in our complaint.”

You can read the Palsgaard v. Christian lawsuit at the FIRE website.

*State Center Community College District encompasses Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, Madera Community College and Oakhurst Community College Center.

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2 thoughts on “More Professors Sue CA Community Colleges over DEIA Teaching Mandates

  1. There should be developed a DEI Index to indicate the level of unquestioning devotion to this abject lunacy of each community college campus/district. The higher the score, the better it is to avoid these “schools” and the lower the score, the more likely it is that one might actually learn and advance in a course of study. I would expect top-tier cc’s to score very low on this index (e.g., De Anza, Foothill, etc.) while low-tier cc’s to score high (e.g., the ones mentioned here as well as other). Graduation rates + Transfer rates + and Inverse-DEI scores would be a useful index.

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