Lawsuit Seeks to End ‘Forced’ DEI Teaching at California Community Colleges

Six professors are suing due to what they call a violation of academic freedom.
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Published on August 21, 2023
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  • California recently enacted new regulations that call on community college professors to employ DEI and anti-racist principles in the classroom.
  • A new lawsuit aims to block enforcement of that new rule.
  • The group representing the six professors claims the regulations force faculty to participate in the promotion of the government's viewpoints.

Six California community college professors filed a lawsuit Thursday hoping to block a new rule they say restricts their academic freedom.

The rule in question states that faculty members must employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and anti-racist principles.

The lawsuit, filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) on behalf of the professors, claims the government overstepped its boundaries by requiring professors to pledge allegiance to contested ideological viewpoints.

FIRE's lawsuit comes at a time when DEI continues to be a hot-button issue, particularly in higher education.

These regulations are a totalitarian triple-whammy, FIRE attorney Daniel Ortner said in a statement. 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.

California's new regulations make it so district governing boards evaluate whether an employee incorporates DEIA principles during the review process. This includes evaluating a professor who is up for tenure review.

The lawsuit states that the six professors are worried they will be terminated if they don't comply.

It adds that to comply, they will be forced to alter their curriculum and teaching methods, parrot the government's views, and abandon their academic freedom.

Here is what the new regulations explicitly state the obligation of faculty members is:

Faculty members shall employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect DEIA and anti-racist principles, and in particular, respect for, and acknowledgement of, the diverse backgrounds of students and colleagues to improve equitable student outcomes and course completion.

It's unclear whether this would force professors to espouse DEIA and anti-racist viewpoints to students in the classroom. It may also be interpreted as forcing faculty to apply DEIA and anti-racist ideologies to how they teach, not the content itself.

Staff members shall promote and incorporate culturally affirming DEIA and anti-racist principles to nurture and create a respectful inclusive and equitable learning and work environment, the regulations state. In conducting their duties, staff members shall respect and acknowledge the diversity of students and colleagues.

FIRE filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The lawsuit seeks to permanently stop the state from enforcing these regulations.

FIRE was at the center of another high-profile academic freedom case last year. The nonprofit group represented two plaintiffs in a case that prevented the Stop WOKE Act in Florida from applying to colleges and universities.