California community colleges may add ‘DEI competencies’ to teacher evaluations

National Association of Scholars has published a report about a proposal that could make diversity, equity and inclusion competencies a key part of faculty and staff evaluations at California community colleges. The announcement of the proposal was made on March 11 and adds an “A” for accessibility to DEI. What would this look like if adopted?

“To advance DEIA principles in community college employment,” the policy mandates that community college districts must:

include DEIA competencies and criteria as a minimum standard for evaluating the performance of all employees;

place significant emphasis on DEIA competencies in employee evaluation and tenure review processes to support employee growth, development, and career advancement;

include a self-reflection and a comprehensive evaluation from appropriate evaluators who reflect a range of perspectives on an employee’s performance. The evaluation process shall provide employees an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of DEIA and anti-racist principles, including how the employee has operationalized DEIA in the performance of their job responsibilities.

So employees would not only have to show they understand DEIA and anti-racism, they would have to demonstrate they are using it if they want any hope of a promotion. The proposal goes on to spell this out for faculty, administrators and staff (2nd tweet below).

The goal is to minimize harm, intentional or not, through a rigorous and ongoing self-examination and a demonstration of “continuous improvement” in DEI knowledge.

But at the NAS story points out, DEIA as described here is clearly a political viewpoint that not everyone shares. This is a pretty clear violation of the concept of academic freedom.

Already, terms like “culturally affirming DEIA” and “anti-racist principles” connote a set of highly debatable concepts. The “anti-racism” of Ibram X. Kendi calls for the wholesale transformation of modern society. The notion of “equity” requires establishing equality of outcomes as an explicit policy goal. Both concepts depend on viewing the world through the lens of oppression. Of course, faculty should be free to espouse such views, but requiring adherence to them amounts to an ideological litmus test, a straightforward violation of academic freedom. Such required adherence is the stated purpose of the newly-proposed policy.

However academic freedom is no longer a consideration at least not according to a separate document titled “DEI in Curriculum: Model Principles and Practices” which was created last year by a policy workgroup. That document spelled out what these new commitments would mean in a series of comparisons.

It lists a series of “Traditional Eurocentric Practice[s]” alongside alternative “Equity Principle,” “Culturally Responsive Classroom Practices,” and “Culturally Responsive Practices for Curriculum Committees and Local Senates.” While some of the proposed practices are innocuous, such as lowering the cost of textbooks, many are deeply ideological in nature.

Here’s a sample recommending a shift toward “a collectivism perspective” and abandoning the “weaponization” of “academic freedom that impedes equity and inflicts curricular trauma on our students.” What is curricular trauma? I’m not sure but I suspect in practice it will mean being asked to read Shakespeare.

In short, if this is adopted no one will be hired or promoted unless they talk like Ibram Kendi and concerns about academic freedom and integrity will be swept aside in favor of a collectivist approach in which the faculty spends its time hold each other accountable for DEI competencies.

This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. California’s community colleges, which serve around 2 million students, would become factories for stamping out ideological clones of diversity trainers.

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