Free speech watchdog sues California over this ‘totalitarian’ new policy

‘The government is forcing professors to teach and preach a politicized viewpoint they do not share.’

Kudos for consistency, I guess? California is seemingly always on the cutting edge of “woke” nonsense and ridiculous progressive policies. But now, a free speech watchdog organization is taking the Golden State to court over new regulations that would trample on the free speech rights of community college professors. 

Under these new regulations, all the professors within the California Community Colleges system—more than 5,000 in total—would be required to teach “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” ideas, whether they want to or not. And while buzzwords like “diversity” and “inclusion” might sound apolitical and innocuous at first glance, they’re unfortunately linked to a deeply-divisive, left-wing philosophy on race and social justice.

California makes this pretty explicit. Its guidelines surrounding “anti-racism” explicitly cite Ibram X Kendi, a controversial leftist academic who advocates for more racial discrimination in the name of balancing out historical racial discrimination. 

What’s more, professors would seemingly not be free to advocate for meritocracy or race-neutrality. The rules dub “color blindness” as “denial” and state that “Merit is embedded in the ideology of Whiteness and upholds race-based structural inequality…merit protects White privilege under the guise of standards … and as highlighted by anti-affirmative action forces.”

The guidelines further declare gender as untethered from biological sex and subject to self-identity, also asserting the legitimacy of the claim some make to be “non-binary” and exist as neither men or women. 

Additionally, the rules blast the “deficit-minded” approach to higher education which “blames students for their inequitable outcomes instead of examining the systemic factors that contribute to their challenges.” They openly lament the fact that some professors criticize their students’ “motivation needed to succeed in college” rather than blame their students’ shortcomings on oppression and other factors beyond their control.

As you can see, there’s a lot here that even a professor who is in no way racist or discriminatory might disagree with and not want to teach. That’s why the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is suing the state over these rules, on behalf of three professors, and arguing that they violate the First Amendment rights of faculty. 

“These regulations are a totalitarian triple-whammy,” FIRE attorney Daniel Ortner said. “The government is forcing professors to teach and preach a politicized viewpoint they do not share, imposing incomprehensible guidelines, and threatening to punish professors when they cross an arbitrary, indiscernible line.”

The courts should—and most likely will—slap these new regulations down. Private colleges can have ideological mandates if they want, but at public universities, professors have First Amendment rights to academic freedom. The government cannot force them to, as a condition of employment, espouse or promote ideas they disagree with. 

It shouldn’t matter whether you’re liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between: we all ought to agree on this basic principle. Because true learning can’t occur in an academic environment where some ideas are forced into mass acceptance from the top down. And unless you want your ideological allies to face such infringements, you have to defend your ideological enemies’ rights, too.

Here’s hoping FIRE and these professors can put a stop to California’s latest woke speech code. And that maybe this time, for once, progressive policymakers will learn a lesson after they lose in court. 

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.