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Some community college professors say diversity, equity rules violate free speech

By EdSoource - Lasherica Thornton

Citing free speech, six professors across the Central San Joaquin Valley are suing the statewide California Community Colleges system and their local community college system, KVPR reported Thursday.


The full-time, tenured professors, working at three of six campuses in the Fresno-area State Center Community College District, assert that a new requirement to implement Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) practices into their teaching violates the First Amendment, according to details of the lawsuit.


The college classroom should be a place to debate and discuss how to overcome racial inequity, the lawsuit says, not a place where professors must conform to and teach anti-racist principles.


Specifically, the lawsuit says, DEIA rules “forsake debate for top-down conformity, requiring faculty to endorse contested concepts such as ‘anti-racism,’ the view that individuals must advocate for race-conscious remedies in order to overcome systemic racism.”


The professors say they “should not be required to teach concepts they do not personally agree with,” KVPR reported.


“Each instead supports race-neutral policies and perspectives that treat all students equally,” the complaint says.


DEIA efforts push the 116-college, 1.8-million student California Community Colleges system to make its campuses “safer, more inclusive and accessible and more welcoming” for minority and underserved students, according to the system’s DEIA website.


“As the largest and most diverse system of higher education in the country,” the website said, ”the California Community Colleges is continually working to break down barriers to racial justice and equity for the millions of students in our colleges.”


To do that, the statewide system, since 2020, has worked to develop equity-centered policies and practices, including holding employees accountable by using performance evaluations to judge DEIA implementation.


Represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, the Reedley, Madera, and Clovis Community College professors named California Community Colleges as well as State Center Community College District in the lawsuit.


The lawsuit seeks to stop the community college system from enforcing the DEIA rules, which the professors consider unconstitutional.


The lawsuit comes as parents, groups and school districts in the K-12 system also look to the courts to determine whether policies and decisions violate certain rights under state and federal laws.

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