Why a black DEI director wasn’t woke enough for her campus

Are America’s campuses as welcoming as they could be (Forbes.com)?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion offices theoretically exist to foster welcoming campuses. But too often, where Jews are concerned, those offices are dismissive, exclusionary, and insensitive, leaving Jewish students , staff, and faculty feeling stigmatized.

Black DEI professional Tabia Lee wrote about such hostility on her now-former campus for Compact magazine: “When I brought Jewish speakers to campus to address anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, some of my critics branded me a ‘dirty Zionist’ and a ‘right-wing extremist.’”

Even empathizing with Jews created professional problems for Lee. For Jews, though, the challenges are multifaceted.

For example, Jews on today’s college campuses are told how to self-identify and then maligned. A Jewish psychiatrist and a Jewish therapist were pressured to join “a ‘whiteness’ affinity group” by Stanford University’s Counseling and Psychological Services DEI program. That program “ advanced anti-Semitic tropes concerning Jewish power, conspiracy, and control and endorsed the narrative that Jews support white supremacy.”

Antisemitism is also minimized and erased. At the Yale Law Journal, a diversity trainer “addressed inequities like ‘pretty privilege’ and ‘fatphobia’ but not anti-Semitism” and implied “the FBI artificially inflates the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes.”

Finally, Jew hatred is redefined. At the City University of New York, a bias incident reporting portal posts a definition of antisemitism that is preferred by the far Left because it excludes anti-Zionist antisemitism.

Princeton University undergraduate Jared Stone considers DEI “a cancer upon American society.” He continues, “Its antagonism towards white and ‘white-adjacent’ groups, as viewed through its self-conceived prism of oppression, has done a great deal to accelerate Jew hatred on college campuses and entrench anti-Zionism within university administrations.”

That characterization fits with a Heritage Foundation study that compared tweets by “741 DEI personnel at 65 universities” about Israel and China. “Of the tweets about Israel, 96 percent were critical of the Jewish state,” repeatedly veering into antisemitism, “while 62 percent of the tweets about China were favorable.”

For his part, Mark Goldfeder, director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center, said, “The vast majority of DEI offices do not include antisemitism in their training and do not have … someone knowledgeable about antisemitism on staff.” Consequently, “DEI offices often … decline to investigate antisemitic complaints under their regular, well-established framework for dealing with discrimination against other minorities because they continue to see Jews as only a religious group,” leaving offices “unprepared for dealing with antisemitism.”

That lack of preparedness partially stems from mistaken definitions. Jews are an ethnoreligious group, and antisemitism has multiple manifestations.

George Washington University Law School student Joel Taubman observed, “DEI offices have a central role in implementing anti-discrimination laws like Title VI. But these offices rarely utilize the federal standard for judging antisemitism, namely the IHRA definition .” That definition could help Jews already facing antipathy from anti-Zionist student groups and professors who support boycotting Israel.

A Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law survey found that “50% of Jewish [college] students hide their Jewish identity and more than half avoid expressing their views on Israel.” This is driven by Jew hatred, both experienced and observed. And last year, the Amcha Initiative, which tracks campus antisemitism, recorded 812 incidents.

Too many DEI offices appear focused on pitting demographic groups against one another rather than promoting universal human dignity. It’s not clear there’s a widespread willingness to change. 

It’s worth watching Florida, which has plans to dismantle DEI. If this shift increases social cohesion while reducing antisemitism, Florida’s model could prove to be the inclusion program America truly needs.

This article appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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