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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Diversity, equity, and Inclusion Statements – truly inclusive or a woke tool to silence diverse views?

Gone are the days of seeking fair and equal treatment of all irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, economic status, etc. These are the times of “diversity” and “equity”. To a layperson, diversity seems a rather noble concept, that is to give everyone equal opportunities to excel irrespective of their background, skin color, etc. But the woke lobby takes it many steps further. In the woke jargon, diversity implies increased representation of people from marginalized backgrounds and communities in the workforce to undo the historical injustices meted out to these communities. Equity is another word that goes beyond equal opportunities and talks about equal outcomes instead. That is, irrespective of whether a person has the right skills for a job or not, they should be hired nevertheless if they fit into the woke definition of a marginalized community.

That is exactly where the issue lies. The woke lobby is increasingly using diversity and inclusion as tools to attack meritocracy and infiltrate the industry and academia with the woke workforce that kowtows a certain political ideology and a line of thought. In other words, these buzzwords are actually killing diversity rather than nurturing it.

A case study in point is the US where universities are increasingly making diversity, equity, and inclusion statements (DEI) mandatory for job applicants. DEI statements are the latest woke tool to silence dissent and make universities battlegrounds of political ideologies rather than centers of knowledge and academic excellence.

Different US universities have different requirements for DEI statements. Some specify the candidates to include their contribution to fostering diversion, equity, and inclusivity in their personal statements. Others require candidates to write separate detailed DIY statements. Writing these DIY statements is not enough. The candidates are evaluated based on these DIY statements and often have to answer interview questions regarding their views on diversity, equity, and inclusion. According to several stories in the US media itself, many well-qualified and experienced candidates have been rejected by many US universities solely on the inadequacy of their DEI statements. This has led to a lot of resistance and backlash against the requirement of mandatory DEI statements by top US universities.

A detailed article published in the New York Times in September 2023 gives a detailed insight into the discontent brewing against DEI in the US. The article begins by citing a case study of an experienced Psychology Professor who applied for a position at the University of California Los Angeles ( UCLA ) and thought he had almost got through when he was refused the job on the grounds that many students had signed a letter denouncing his candidacy because he had opposed diversity statements in a podcast of his aired years earlier.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/08/us/ucla-dei-statement.html#:~:text=Nearly%20half%20the%20large%20universities,tenure%20also%20write%20such%20statements.

This essentially spells out the woke politics of DEIs where any dissent and diversity opinion is conveniently shunned in the name of social justice. The New York Times article further tells us that “Nearly half the large universities in America require that job applicants write such statements, part of the rapid growth in D.E.I. programs. Many University of California departments now require that faculty members seeking promotions and tenure also write such statements”.

Writing DEI statements is not just mandatory for job applicants in US universities. Many higher educational institutions have made these statements a part of the admission process. Students are required to write DIY statements to secure admission. This has led to the mushrooming of an entire cottage industry of sorts around the writing of such statements. Google the term “DIY statements” and you will see a volley of articles telling you about how to write a DEI statement. Many academies and coaching institutes dedicated to the art and craft of writing DEI statements seem to have sprung up overnight!

Yet, this mandatory woke tool is facing a lot of resistance and criticism from within the US academia. An article published on the website of the “American Council on Science and Health” in August 2023 constructs a compelling case against DEI statements. The article argues that filtering out candidates based on arbitrary criteria like DEI statements does a great disservice to the cause of meritocracy in the American higher education system, especially in the context of sciences. The article compares the requirement of mandatory DEIs with mandatory political pronouncements such as the anti-Communist oaths of the 1950s and 1960s that were ruled unconstitutional by the US courts long ago.

https://www.acsh.org/news/2023/08/24/dei-statement-requirement-should-be-abolished-17248

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion tool of the woke lobby is not just limited to writing a DEI statement. It encompasses forced adherence to woke positioning on a whole range of issues such as gender justice, immigration, LGBTQ rights, minority rights, etc. You are drawn into a political vortex where you are expected to adhere to a never-ending list of politically correct imperatives by the woke mafia. The ideological vigilance can be so acute and dictatorial that any faculty member, even once hired, could be harassed on arbitrary grounds for supposed violation of the DEI discourse, and thus forced to conform to a particular ideological viewpoint.

That’s why critics of DEI stress that it’s a woke tool to silence dissenting voices. Dr Carol M. Swain, an American political scientist and legal scholar, and a retired Professor of Politics and Law at Vanderbilt University, has been a vocal critic of the woke lobby’s misuse of the DEI in the US to silence opposing political voices.

She writes in a recent post on her X account:

“Mandatory DEI statements help liberals weed the pool of applicants to exclude conservatives and anyone else who believes in a meritocratic system. Once hired universities have a myriad of ways of punishing anyone who questions the status quo. Universities have a “systemic bias” that ensures that defectors will pay a high cost for questioning the biases. Administrators can make life miserable by withholding raises, issuing denunciation statements, and labeling defectors as the weakest link.

Professors often steer students to preferred professors and stir unrest among students to maintain control”.

According to various US media reports, many lawsuits have been filed against the mandatory DEI university requirements at American universities by faculty members. John D. Haltigan, who has a Ph.D in Psychology filed a lawsuit in May against the University of California in May 2023 saying that such a statement amounted to a functional loyalty oath and would make his job application futile, violating his rights under the First Amendment of the US constitution.

Diversity, equality, and inclusion statements, ironically enough, force the candidates to support all kinds of campus politics based on grounds of race and ethnicity. It’s quite a broad canvas to conform to and can lead to the harassment of any faculty member who raises their voice against divisive or dangerous politics being carried out in the name of championing diversity. The wave of antisemitism that pervaded US university campuses in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, and Israel’s retaliation, thereafter, is a classic case in point. In this case, the woke rhetoric of diversity and inclusion went too far as Jewish students were harassed on US campuses and demonized as calls for the genocide of Jews engulfed US campuses. The then Presidents of America’s three leading universities – Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania failed to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of Jews on university campuses during a congressional hearing. This is a classic case of the woke rhetoric of diversity, equity, and inclusion going terribly wrong. When it came to protecting the rights and liberties of Jewish students, these universities failed miserably since the rights of Jewish students didn’t fit well into the liberal woke template of marginalized communities.

The diversity, equity, and inclusion rhetoric has gripped not just the US academia but the corporate sector as well. Many tech companies are now incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion policies in their administrative and HR framework, which, as critics point out, will lead to the prevalence of quota systems in these companies. Imagine companies hiring candidates not on the basis of their ability to do a particular job well or their skill set but based on their race and ethnicity. This, as critics point out, has already started happening in the tech sector in the form of positive discrimination that is proving detrimental to the careers of many qualified candidates.

Even within the marginalized communities, critics argue, diversity, equity, and inclusion policies don’t help much as the elite within these communities are the ones who get the benefits and the ones who really deserve to be uplifted stay at the bottom.

Thomas Sowell, an American economist, social philosopher, and commentator puts it rather aptly on his X handle.

“I’ve been doing studies now for 20 years of programs designed to increase equality. They increase inequality. Because even when the programs are designed for disadvantaged groups, they help the affluent members of disadvantaged groups while the lower members of those groups fall further behind than ever before”.

This aptly sums up the sham of the whole DEI rhetoric that claims to champion diversity and equality but instead works to reinforce conformity of liberal political viewpoints aimed at maintaining the status quo and preventing any real empowerment of the marginalized.

Any real empowerment of those at the bottom of the ladder would require a non-nonsense area-wise assessment of the population, carefully improving education and employment opportunities for those who lack the requisite infrastructure. What it doesn’t require is the high-sounding fancy rhetoric of diversity, equity, and inclusion whose sole purpose is to further the woke agenda and give legitimacy to extreme and radical politics being practiced on US campuses in the garb of inclusion and diversity.

The woke toolkit of diversity, equity, and inclusion is reaching Bharat also. Noted scholar, author, and a pioneer in the research on civilizations Rajiv Malhotra has pointed out in his books that the woke machinery is now targeting Bharat’s higher educational institutes like IIT’s in the name of promoting diversity and inclusion. In the Bharatiya context, the woke lobby’s supposed championing of the rights of the marginalized effectively translates into the demonizing of so-called upper castes and the pitting of Dalits, scheduled tribes, as well as minorities against them.  It’s a dangerous experiment and Bharat is already becoming a site of this experiment. Similarly, as Rajiv Malhotra warns, the diversity and inclusion rhetoric is also making its presence felt in tech companies of Bharat, racking up the caste issue in a plea to divide Hindus and destroy meritocracy.

True inclusivity and diversion, as I mentioned previously, comes from effective government policies providing equal opportunities to the marginalized, based on sound scientific research and studies. The woke lobby makes a mockery of diversity, equity, and inclusion by using these as tools of political power and control.

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Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri is an independent journalist and writer currently based in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). Rati has extensive experience in broadcast journalism having worked as a Correspondent for Xinhua Media for 8 years. She was based at their New Delhi bureau. She has also worked across radio and digital media and was a Fellow with Radio Deutsche Welle in Bonn. She is now based in Dehradun and pursuing independent work regularly contributing news analysis videos to a nationalist news portal (India Speaks Daily) with a considerable youtube presence. Rati regularly contributes articles and opinion pieces to various esteemed newspapers, journals, and magazines. Her articles have been recently published in "The Sunday Guardian", "Organizer", "Opindia", and "Garhwal Post". She has completed a MA (International Journalism) from the University of Leeds, U.K., and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Miranda House, Delhi University.

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