Lawsuit Challenging University of California DEI Statements Dismissed

Diversity statements, also known as diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, statements, ask candidates seeking a faculty position or promotion to describe how they would contribute to campus diversity.

In its lawsuit, John Haltigan, who has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology, said he would have applied for a position at UC Santa Cruz, but that the DEI statement made his application futile since he is “committed to colorblindness and viewpoint diversity.” . The lawsuit contended that the requirement acts as a “functional oath of allegiance,” violating its First Amendment rights.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian group that filed the lawsuit on Dr. Haltigan’s behalf, did not make him available for an interview. But in February mail On Substack, he wrote that DEI statements have become “a political litmus test” that has eroded diversity of thought in academia.

“As a result, public trust in our universities has been severely diminished,” he wrote in the post.

Universities that require DEI statements, including the 10-campus University of California system, defend them as part business strategy and part skills assessment, helping to gauge a potential employee’s commitment to teaching and supporting an increasingly diverse student body. They say that with the statements they seek to judge the applicants by their intentions and actions, not by their beliefs.

“If someone says, ‘I don’t want to make any effort to teach a diverse student body,’ that should be something we keep in mind because we all have to teach tremendously diverse students,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a First Amendment scholar. and dean of the Berkeley campus law school, in an interview before the decision.

But opponents say they help impose an institutional ideology, sending the message that those who disagree with a certain view of diversity are not welcome in academia. They also say that statements are another tool that experts can use to find the right buzzwords, rewarding performative dishonesty.

The court gave Mr. Haltigan three weeks to amend the complaint. “We will consider all avenues to vindicate our clients’ First Amendment rights,” said Wilson Freeman, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

This ruling is unlikely to resolve the debate over the University of California system’s DEI requirements for faculty hiring (or the system’s diversity and inclusion efforts more broadly), but for now it puts the lie to what experts say was one of the first legal challenges to these university statements.

Some states, including North Dakota, Florida and Texas, have banned requiring them or banned them entirely, according to a news tracker. The chronicle of higher education. Arizona universities were recently banned demand them too.