July 07, 2022

A Victory for Faculty Freedom of Speech and Diversity of Viewpoint At the University of Washington

I have some very good news to report.  

There has been a major victory for faculty freedom of speech and viewpoint diversity, and certainly a positive development for students at the UW.

In a previous blog, I talked about a proposed requirement that every University of Washington faculty member wishing advancement would have to provide a statement demonstrating concordance with and concrete action in support of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda.

A highly politicized requirement that is reminiscent of the anti-communist loyalty oaths of the late 1940s and early 1950s.  I noted in my blog that requiring all faculty members to support a social/political agenda favored by one segment of society not only politicizes the university but represents “compelled speech”, a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution at a public university.

The proposed requirement had all kinds of potential for abuse, since it provided little guidance on what represented adequate "progress" for faculty DEI:  it was up to the gatekeepers in each individual unit to decide.

The Vote

The required DEI statement had to be approved by at least two-thirds of the faculty to take effect.  Fortunately, roughly 40% of the faculty either voted no or abstained, resulting in the defeat of this ill-advised initiative.  Such a defeat of faculty legislation is unheard of at the UW.

The negative vote was not a battle between left and right on the faculty, of conservatives versus progressives, or anything like that.    Many of the faculty who voted against the measure were quite liberal in their political outlook and strong supporters of diversity in the faculty and student body.

Rather, the opposition was based on a strong belief that faculty should never be forced to subscribe to a certain political viewpoint or to pay homage to a current trendy set of ideas.  They believed that not only was the proposed requirement illegal but it would result in a monoculture of political or societal viewpoints on campus.

If there is one place where differing ideas and viewpoints should be protected, it is on a university campus.  Students are best educated by exposing them to a range of ideas by a diverse faculty.  Our future depends on this.


The Revealing Reaction of the Initiative Supporters

The anti-democratic nature of those who sponsored the initiative became clear after its defeat.  Some advocates pushed to ignore the vote and enforce the DEI initiative anyway.  Certain concepts of democracy seem to be unknown to them.

For example, the Chair of the Faculty Senate, who should be an impartial representative of faculty viewpoint, sent out a hurried message within minutes of the release of the results, stating:

"for those of us who supported this effort, a very disappointing result – but it will not end our work to change our University and how we center the values of inclusivity, equity, and diversity in our promotion and tenure practices...The legislation, had it passed, called for a full 2 years of unit-level efforts to develop local understandings of how DEI contributions should be considered and evaluated, and that work will proceed."

Unbelievable.  What difference does a faculty vote mean if the chair of the Faculty Senate pushes to go ahead anyway after the faculty said no?

Similarly, the UW School of Public Health faculty council voted to go ahead with a DEI requirement anyway.

An Example for the Nation

The UW faculty vote against compelled speech has garnered bi-partisan support from national groups dedicated to faculty freedom.  For example, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) put out a statement in support of the UW faculty vote and described the problems with enforced DEI statements by faculty.  They also examined how such statements represent compelled speech.

The head of the national Heterodox Academy, Dr. Jonathan Haidt, found the success of the UW chapter of the group in leading the opposition as "thrilling."  And the group, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), has spoken out against faculty DEI statements such as proposed for the UW

The Fight for the Soul of the UW 

Let me be frank here:  there is a battle going on right now on the UW Campus, and the fight against the compelled faculty DEI statement is just one skirmish in the war for the soul of the University.

On the side, there are those who believe that every potential student deserves an equal chance and equal opportunity.  That the UW should never bias its decision-making or opportunities afforded to students based on the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their religion, their politics, their sex, their sexual orientation, or anything else.

This is the side that believes in equality and the equal value of all people. That the UW should consider each potential student as an individual and not as a representative of a group.  This is the side I am on by the way.

The other side, which I will call the equity side, does not believe in equality of opportunity, but of outcomes.   They believe that the university should be biased in its admissions and resources to ensure equal outcomes for all groups, with particular attention to a small number of favored "underrepresented" groups.   

The equity advocates are ready to give preferences based on skin color, ethnic group, or sex, and to use "affirmative action" to prefer those they support.  Although such affirmative action is against state law, it happens anyway, with "holistic admissions" and rejection of objective measures (such as the SAT or GRE) being new tools for obscuring what is going on.

You can see why so many faculty opposed the DEI statement, which required concrete actions in support of "equity"  to receive advancement at the UW.



But the battle at the UW doesn't end with issues of equity versus equality.

Some faculty and administrators do not believe in diversity of viewpoint, and particularly diversity of political outlook.  They are so certain of the nobility and value of their views (typically highly progressive) that they feel free to suppress other viewpoints.  They do not believe that the political viewpoints of the faculty should reflect the state or nation.

A good example is the faculty listserve run by UW chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).   This listserv, which is read by thousands of UW faculty and administrators, is moderated by left-leaning faculty that reject large numbers of messages that do not reflect their viewpoint.  

In some departments (like mine and Computer Sciences), faculty have been attacked publicly by department chairs or other faculty when they expressed viewpoints that differed from approved "progressive" ideas.   In my case, the department chair and two College of the Environment Deans publicly attacked me for speaking out against initiative 1631, a highly regressive gas tax that would line the pockets of certain "progressive "groups.  In Computer Sciences, Stuart Reges has been savagely attacked for not toeing the line regarding a land acknowledgment statement.  And there are more examples that I will not list here.

One reason the proposed DEI statement was so problematic was that it would be a powerful tool to remove or discourage faculty with more moderate political viewpoints.    In the long term, it would push the faculty to all think alike in support of the trendy, political DEI viewpoint of one political party.

All of You Will Be Affected by the Outcome

The outcome of this battle to protect diversity of viewpoint at the UW will affect most of you.  It will decide whether your child, grandchild, or young acquaintance will have an equal shot of attending the flagship university of the State.  It will decide whether UW faculty will descend into a monoculture of political/social viewpoint, with very negative implications for our ability to research and communicate effectively on key societal issues.

Most importantly, it will decide whether students who graduate from the UW will be exposed to a range of ideas and viewpoints, without which they will be poorly equipped to take on life's problems or to work to improve our state and nation.

We have won a victory to preserve essential American ideals of freedom of speech and diversity of viewpoint at the UW, but the conflict of ideas is not over.


20 comments:

  1. This is wonderful, even surprising news at UW. It seems a segment of society at the moment strongly believes that celebrating diversity means pushing out opposing viewpoints.

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  2. It is vitally important to understand what the term "liberty" in the phrase "with liberty and justice for all" means and the history behind why it is used. "liberty" comes for the word "liberal", but it's not the liberal as we often use that word today. The DEI-pushers have forgotten this, or maybe they never knew. If you don't understand this part of Western history, find out and hold tightly onto it because once this concept is lost, we really are doomed.

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  3. How is the requirement to cleave to one narrow intellectual viewpoint "diversity"? These DIE (not DEI) people with their own incorrect definitions of words are an affront to taxpayers.

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  4. When funding is cut for the University systems, it will be decried as "anti-intellectualism", not as a response to the "anti-intellectualism" of the 'academy'.

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  5. "A highly politicized requirement that is reminiscent of the anti-communist loyalty oaths of the late 1940s and early 1950s." So true. I am not a fan of extremes at either end of the spectrum. https://www.washington.edu/news/1998/01/02/university-of-washington-marks-50th-anniversary-of-anti-communist-investigations-with/

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  6. I have also talked with some UW profs about related issue, and read many articles (several have been published at Quillette, including by Reges) describing the progressive march of DIE (as I prefer to order it) ideology at the UW and elsewhere.

    Several points seem worth adding:

    (1) Most UW profs did vote for this measure, just not enough to meet the 60% threshhold, as I understand.

    (2) Things are worse in the Humanities than in the Sciences. Anecdotally (including my own kids, recent UW grads), students in the hard sciences, engineering, and business report little ideological pressure.

    (3) Among UW students, European-Americans appear to be the only major ethnic group in Washington State that is seriously underrepresented. This can be explained by (a) high Asian-American test scores, and (b) bias in favor of African-Americans and Hispanics in admittance.

    (4) UW departments now seem to require a DIE statement of faith on their websites. I notice that even oceanographers declare their commitment to hiring co-workers of proper skin color. Of course hiring people on the basis of skin color was once considered illiberal in the United States.

    (5) Only people who do not understand human nature would expect an even distribution of interests among folks of different sub-cultures. But thanks to Ibrim Kendi, such foolishness is now official dogma in American universities -- except when the distribution is to the advantage of minorities. (And even in that case, Asians don't count.)

    (6) I suspect the percentage of young faculty voting for Goodthink is higher, which means, the measure will be passed before long.

    (7) Someone will need to sue, when this passes.

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    Replies
    1. Short version: our once great nation is circling the drain.

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    2. Your comment was congruent with the late "gonzo" journalist, Hunter H. Thompson, who left a note, prior to his suicide, saying that "as a nation, we are now circling the drain"...and that was several years ago!

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  7. As a former attendee of the UW...50 years ago!...I can remember an incident that happened in one of my classes. The professor announced a mid-term exam, to be taken early in the morning the next week. A small group of minority students proceeded to miss the exam...the next class meeting, they used the lame excuse that their "culture" did not observe such timed events, particularly in the morning!...I groaned, along with the hundred or so other students, when we heard that bogus "excuse"!....Your article makes me think that not much has changed in our decaying society.

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  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/san-franciscos-school-decision-is-reason-to-celebrate/2022/07/06/5e72ced4-fd2c-11ec-b39d-71309168014b_story.html?isMobile=1

    A case study of the DEI agenda in an elite educational institution

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  9. Long ago - during the post-McCarthy era - my parents used to jokingly say, "Comes the revolution, we will all eat strawberries with whipped cream... whether we like them, or not." Not so amusing these days.

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  10. This sort of thing has made its way into interview questions when applying for some positions, especially at government institutions. Be prepared to verbally provide details about how you've 'supported the DEI mission' if you apply for such positions...

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  11. Evergreen college and it's subsequent implosion a few years ago was only foreshadowing/expose of what was becoming a nationwide scandal at our universities. FIRE should be first among many to begin filing free speech lawsuits against UW. The only way to stop this is to make those responsible pay for their actions.

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  12. A win for UW and free speech although the statement that "work will proceed" is concerning.

    Also concerning is the flow of these zealots into corporate and privately held businesses in which they are given a free mandate to impose their ideologies as they wish. Since businesses are not democratic it's impossible to disagree and results in an "Orwellian" culture in which one must withhold all views and remain silent when told they are "racist" if they don't subscribe to Ibrim Kendi's viewpoint on critical race theory. All of this happening when there's actual "work" to be done serving customers and generating a profit.

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  13. This ideology bothered me when I got my undergrad degree from WWU as early as 1979. I didn't like the direction things were going but I found some departments were less influenced than others. Unfortunately, the Ed department was among the worst. I am an educator.

    I ended up getting a MA from WWU in education in 1991, and shortly after that realized that my career in public K-12 was at an end. Big, expensive mistake. But I began working with homeschoolers and having a LOT more fun, besides working my butt off for them and honing my craft in ways that can't be done in K-12 when you're handed the curriculum and told how to present it. Might as well use a computer, where someone controls everything about the presentation.

    But I taught math at the local CC as adjunct faculty, and enjoyed that. For awhile, the math department was pretty immune to the DIE that was rampant in other departments. But creep it did, and I left in 2014. I was beginning to get into trouble.

    I tell homeschoolers to avoid 4-yr university, whenever possible, or at least take a gap year or two to focus their interests. University is ridiculously expensive. There are companies out there that are pretty dissatisfied with the results of it, and are offering their own learning-intensive experiences so they can survey the results and pick their next employees.

    FIRE is fabulous! And I can highly recommend the book associated with it: The Coddling of the American Mind. Y'all should read it.

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  14. The fact that the DEI Initiative was even allowed to come to a vote of the faculty is a terrible breach of academic integrity and is appalling by itself.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You have a link to a Trump website, and another link about voting for Trump "a third time." This indicates that you are a Trump supporter. Is this true? (For the record I am opposed to DEI).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary. The ads are based on what google thinks are your interests. From your prior searches it believes you are a conservative and a Trump supporter. That is is OK. This is a weather blog and people of all political viewpoints are welcome..cliff

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  16. Just saw this..

    https://www.nationalreview.com/news/professor-sues-university-after-being-penalized-for-refusing-to-include-land-acknowledgement-on-syllabus/

    It's too bad I can't pull my tax dollars off of the place - it doesn't deserve public support, financial or otherwise.

    ReplyDelete

Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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