About 18 months ago, I was asked to serve on a panel by three Jewish human relations professionals to discuss Jewish issues for three dozen Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professionals who work in the corporate sector. In the preliminary preparations for the program, I ascertained that one of the panelists was wary of wearing any jewelry identifying her as Jewish. And they cautioned me about bringing up Israel in the discussion.
After the monstrous attacks of October 7 and the antisemitic feeding frenzy on campus in the ensuing days, weeks and months, it’s instructive to review the DEI industry on campus and what it really entails.
On its face, what DEI stands for should be laudable. Who wouldn’t be in favor of diversifying the campus, including all segments, and pursuing equity or fairness? But as hedge fund guru Bill Ackman has observed, this is false advertising. Buttressed by critical race theory and the writings of Franz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, and more recently Ibram X. Kendi and others, this worldview updates the Marxist struggle from focusing on economic class to focus strictly on race. Whites are oppressors and colonizers of people of color, and the latter are the victims and the colonized. There’s a hierarchy of esteem, with the most oppressed — gays, women, transexuals, and people of color — at the apex, and “privileged “whites, particularly Jews who support Israel, at the bottom rung. That’s why it took weeks for feminists to condemn the wholesale rape and slaughter of Jewish women and three heads of prestigious universities had to contextualize genocidal rhetoric against Jews.
Let’s examine the individual components of DEI.
Regarding diversity, when recruiting for faculty in all fields, applicants must submit an essay establishing their social justice bonafides. In order to secure a position, the applicant must spew the politically correct answers such as the structural racism that pervades our society. It’s like the catechism of wokeness suitable for the campus environment. It’s no wonder that according to the National Association of Scholars, Democratic professors outnumber their Republican colleagues by a ratio of 8.5 to one on top college campuses. And with the echo chambers of faculty hiring committees, this disparity will be widened even further. So much for diversity of thought on the college campus.
Equity means the quality of being fair and impartial — equality of treatment. It also means the meritorious stake a person earns in a home or enterprise. But the word equity, as used by the DEI, means equality not of treatment but of results. According to this view, if students of color do not make the dean’s list in proportion to their population, that means that the institution is racist. Merit is downgraded because it is seen as an oppressive measure, discriminating against Jews and Asians and undermining the pursuit of excellence as an academic aspiration. It makes a mockery of Martin Luther King’s admonition to judge a person by character not color.
Finally, inclusion. Too many Jewish students have been ostracized from progressive causes because they support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. In other words, they’re Zionists. Intersectionality among progressives is binary. Either you’re with us in condemning Zionism or you’re out. And DEI professionals condemn Israel. The Heritage Foundation examined the Twitter feeds of 741 DEI personnel at 65 universities to gauge their attitudes. Of the tweets about Israel, 96 percent were critical of the Jewish state, while 62 percent were favorable to China. There were more tweets about Israel as apartheid than anything favorable about Israel at all. Is it no wonder that the college campus at many universities is inhospitable to Jewish students.
And the DEI bureaucracy has mushroomed in size, with the average DEI staff at the 65 universities sampled totaling 45.
What should be done?
With campus moral rot on full display with demonstrations supporting Hamas and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, political pressure should be exerted to downsize the DEI industry. Its focus should be modified to monitor any discriminatory practices against any group or individual, divesting it of any ideological litmus test in judging “victims.” This also will save universities administrative costs, reducing the bloated tuition increases of recent years, which have far exceeded inflation.
Universities should accept the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which includes demonizing the Jewish state and its supporters. This definition has been accepted by our state department and by 35 countries, and it could be used as a tool to prevent the harassment of Jewish students.
Campuses should pursue real diversity by ensuring that diversity of opinion exists in the academy, mitigating ideological purity tests and groupthink, instead harnessing respect for differing viewpoints to insure intellectual vitality.
The DEI industry has reinforced the notion of America’s founding to perpetuate slavery as in the 1619 Project and to set up a hierarchy of victimhood based solely on race. While America has many imperfections, we have the mechanism as a democratic society to mitigate our worst instincts. Hopefully this will withstand the vagaries of the upcoming presidential election.
As George Orwell told us in “1984,” “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The time has come to transform the DEI monster to comport with the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, irrespective of race, gender, religion, nationality, or affinity for the Jewish state.
Max Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014. He is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation and consultant for the Jewish Community Legacy Project.