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Wall Street Journal: The Tyranny of the DEI Bureaucracy

Updated: Mar 22

In several previous posts, the Madison Cabinet has noted the growth in DEI efforts at James Madison University and it's impact from a budgetary and bureaucratic perspective. The WSJ editorial posted below rightfully highlights these high profile and inflammatory public events, but also references the equally troubling and pervasive hiring processes on college campuses.

Two weeks ago, Madison Cabinet detailed in this post, the new DEI centric protocols now embedded within faculty hiring practices, which enforce and ideological litmus test and how a new "Associate Provost for Inclusive Strategies and Equity Initiatives" has a chokehold on the process. We further learned upon review of the non-public Rankin Campus Climate Report that faculty and staff believe that these DEI practices are "unjust, "unethical, "possibly illegal," and students want "politics out of my education." Finally, as noted by the Virginia Association of Scholars report, JMU has somewhere between 33 and 65 DEI administrators on campus. These individuals in the faculty, as shown on this website "DEI Leaders," are in every college or school on campus. More faculty are listed here. DEI is not only for current students, but the DEI bureaucracy has infiltrated the admissions department and prospective student recruitment as well. Interestingly, the Office of Research Integrity also has significant amounts of resources on their website for DEI, including links to "BLM in Research," an advocacy organization, Equality Virginia, "Race Forward" and "BLM in Research Considerations."

We hope the horrible actions by the DEI Dean and students at Stanford never happen at James Madison University. While we are unaware of any such incidents, there have been several in recent memory that come close to stifling free speech on campus. In 2020, a history professor, Mary Gayne (who is still employed by JMU) tweeted from her personal account that "The Republican Party can die for all I care. They've demonstrated lack of loyalty to democracy and the US Constitution. F**k 'em all." As former Speaker Kirk Cox ('79) stated, "This kind of language is meant to do one thing: intimidate, shame, and silence conservatives and it has no place on our college campuses or anywhere else in a representative democracy." More widespread, was the fury over the orientation training that was presented to orientation leaders stating that "white, Christian males" are 'oppressors.'

Emphasis added to editorial below by Madison Cabinet.

The Tyranny of the DEI Bureaucracy

Diversity, equity and inclusion offices become weapons to intimidate and limit speech

The Editorial Board

Critical race theory is becoming institutionalized across American universities, and a major reason is the educational bureaucracy. Most universities now have offices for diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, that exercise a broad writ on campus and act as speech police within the university.

Heckling unpopular speakers is common on campus, but what makes this episode stand out is the role played by administrators. As the room grew unruly, Judge Duncan asked that a college official step in. The law school’s associate dean for DEI, Tirien Steinbach, took the podium. “Me and many people in this Administration do absolutely believe in free speech,” the dean said, but then went on to ask if “the juice is worth the squeeze”—that is, whether tolerating free speech is worth the pain it causes.

Ms. Steinbach characterized the judge’s speech as something “that feels abhorrent, that feels harmful, that literally denies the humanity of people.” And she lectured Judge Duncan: “Do you have something so incredible and important to say about Twitter, Guns and Covid that it is worth the division of these people?”

Her remarks were not off-the-cuff. Ms. Steinbach had riled up protesters before the event with an email alerting them that “Numerous senators, advocacy groups, think tanks, and judicial accountability groups” opposed Judge Duncan’s nomination because of his legal advocacy “regarding marriage equality and transgender, voting, reproductive, and immigrants’ rights.”

The federal judge has caused “upset and outrage,” she continued, and has “repeatedly and proudly threatened healthcare and basic rights for marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people . . . prisoners, Black voters, and women.”

Stanford’s president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez later apologized to the judge. But on Monday students lined the halls to protest Ms. Martinez for apologizing. No one expects Ms. Steinbach will face discipline for her role in the fiasco, and the school is still offering her further involvement to help with university healing.

The dean of students emailed the Federalist Society students who had invited Judge Duncan to offer support and counseling—including from Dean Steinbach. The email also encouraged them to “consider pausing their student organization social media accounts until this news cycle winds down” and “try your best not to engage on Twitter.” In other words, respond to an attempt to stifle your speech by stifling your speech.

The Stanford blowup shows how the culture of DEI, and especially its accumulation of power in the bureaucracy, has become a threat to free speech. Students who gather to jeer disfavored speakers and intimidate and harass fellow students use the authority of DEI offices to sanction their behavior. Rather than promoting diversity, DEI officers enforce ideological conformity.

Jay Greene of the Heritage Foundation reports that the average major university now has 45 DEI personnel. The University of Michigan has 163 DEI officers. Ohio State and the University of Virginia each have 94. Georgia Tech has 41 DEI personnel but only 13 history professors.

All of this has understandably produced a political backlash. Texas lawmakers this month introduced a bill to eliminate DEI offices on public university campuses, except those working solely to ensure compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination law.

The bill also seeks to remove the ideological loyalty oaths that many schools now demand of faculty. A similar policy recently passed at the University of North Carolina. The Texas bill says universities should also incorporate into their bylaws the University of Chicago’s principles on freedom of expression.

We can hope this helps in Texas, but the tyranny of DEI has spread across far too many American institutions. The DEI movement may have started with good intentions, but across government, education and American business its functionaries have too often become ideological enforcers.

DEI officials have a vested interest in ensuring that the grievances of identity politics continue lest the offices have no reason to exist. As the Stanford experience shows, they promote racial division rather than redress it, and institutions need to rethink their value.

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