Normalizing Illiberalism

What does it take for a fringe dogma that preys on frail human divisions and obsesses with power struggles to be promoted en masse and generally accepted in a country where political liberalism had been the norm?

The radical reshaping of contemporary American minds towards an unnatural preoccupation with cultural relativism and identity tribalism began at our elite institutions. Harvard invented the holistic review process a century ago to curb the rising number of Jewish admits, which inadvertently morphed into debatable race-conscious admissions. Affirmative action started off as a federal equal opportunity contracting policy when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925. But the concept quickly turned from equal opportunity to racial preferences with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Executive Order 11246. Critical race theory was investigated in a 1989 workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, by pioneering race scholars including Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, and Richard Delgado as a counter-cultural, counter-hegemonic legal theory. But its political nature demanded that a movement be born to fully mobilize public and private sectors and to rearrange our society on the praxis of race.

While the elites sowed the seeds and spearheaded the movement, the task of sustaining and expanding the culture war falls upon a multitude of followers and eager late-comers who work tirelessly to popularize the norm of race-based thinking and create the economies of scale. San Diego State University (SDSU), the southernmost campus of the California State University (CSU) system, with a history of training women elementary school teachers in the late 19th century and a current national ranking of #148, has become a star missionary.

From faculty recruitment to course content to student engagement, political emissaries at SDSU are expending every institutional fiber to wage the war on liberalism. Its coordinated actions aid and abet the far left’s crusade against democratic natural rights, constitutional neutrality, and universal equality before the law.

[Related: “Regulatory Capture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education”]

SDSU relies on its Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) to carry out its equity work, which includes implicit bias training workshops, equity-minded hiring, and a foundational social justice certification program. The CIE currently has a 10-member team, including six with doctorates in a variety of disciplines, dedicated to fostering “a welcoming and affirming community where diversity, equity and social justice are valued and advanced.” In addition, the CIE bases its programs and institutional practices on the academic work of three Professors of Equity, who come from different departments and research centers within SDSU. The university is currently seeking three additional candidates for the “Professor of Equity” position to support “Diversity Strategic Planning, faculty support and professionalization in the university’s DEI efforts.”

The DEI Ponzi scheme subsequently becomes dispersed from the top of the pyramid to regular institutional operations. According to SDSU’s 2021-2022 “Tenure-Track Faculty Hiring Handbook,” updated in January 2022, department and school search committees must complete the “Equity, Implicit Bias, and Microaggressions” campus diversity training and must elect or appoint a “Faculty Inclusion Representative (IR)” to be trained further by the CIE. In developing a recruitment plan, the responsible department or school must explicitly list “Building on Inclusive Excellence” (BIE) criteria. The BIE hiring program is an ideological litmus test “designed to assess the candidate’s demonstrated commitment to serving and/or addressing issues related to underrepresented populations.” Specifically, a candidate for any tenure-track position within SDSU must meet at least 2 of the following 8 BIE criteria:

  1. Is committed to engaging in service with underrepresented populations within the discipline.
  2. Has demonstrated knowledge of barriers for underrepresented students and faculty within the discipline.
  3. Has experience or demonstrated commitment to teaching and mentoring underrepresented students.
  4. Has experience or has demonstrated commitment to integrating understanding of underrepresented populations and communities into research.
  5. Has experience in or has demonstrated commitment to extending knowledge of opportunities and challenges in achieving artistic/scholarly success to members of an underrepresented group.
  6. Has experience in or has demonstrated commitment to research that engages underrepresented communities.
  7. Has expertise or demonstrated commitment to developing expertise in cross-cultural communication and collaboration.
  8. Has research interests that contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education.

The handbook goes on to give equally ambiguous and immeasurable examples of how to fulfill each criterion. For instance, one example for Criterion #1 is “meaningful involvement with professional organizations or campus committees that advance underrepresented populations.” How can one demonstrate that his or her involvement with other entities is meaningful? What does advancing underrepresented populations look like in real life? Should the search committee rank the level and degree of underrepresentation among prospective candidates? The virtue-signaling handbook poses more questions than it answers.

The chokehold on free thinking and viewpoint diversity at SDSU bleeds into ad hoc campus occurrences. Last month, SDSU philosophy professor J. Angelo Corlett was targeted after bringing racial epithets into a classroom discussion about the use-mention distinction, a fundamental concept of analytic philosophy. After a few triggered students lodged a complaint against him, university leadership wasted no time removing Professor Corlett from his position teaching two courses on critical thinking and racism. Professor Corlett’s colleague, Dr. Adisa Alkebulan of SDSU’s Africana Studies department, supported the students’ allegation of his “throwing around the N-word” and causing fear and discomfort among students. To date, in spite of official requests from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Academic Freedom Alliance, and the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, SDSU has yet to restore Professor Corlett’s right to teach the two courses he had taught for many years.

[Related: “Canceled by the University He Helped Found”]

While the woke mobsters scrutinize the teaching methods of those professors who don’t fall in line, those who hold politically correct views are never questioned or challenged for professing intolerance and bigotry. For example, SDSU’s Dean of Arts and Letters, Professor Monica J. Casper, has a public track record of disparaging conservatives and white people. Dean Casper has described the U.S. Supreme Court as “two sexual predators, a white lady, and some racists walk into a courtroom.” She has also ridiculed the American conservative agenda: “racism good, abortion bad, money good, women bad, capitalism good, sustainability bad, stupidity good, science bad, power good, equality bad, white people good, nonwhite people bad.”

Rather than acknowledging her comments as political hate speech, SDSU has taken no corrective measure against Dean Casper. Instead, SDSU President Adela de la Torre defended the Dean and emphasized that the university upholds “the right to free speech.” The same grace and understanding has not been shown to Professor Corlett. In fact, he received his “reprimand and reassignment” from the very same conservative-hating Dean Monica Casper! The haters demand freedom of speech for themselves while freely trampling over dissenters’ rights to academic freedom and due process. Rules for thee but not for me—henceforth the mantra of the illiberal movement for dictated virtue.

The icing on the cake came with SDSU’s botched attempt to require the incorporation of a “Kumeyaay Land Acknowledgement” into all faculty syllabi to celebrate the history and culture of the Indigenous Kumeyaay people. The rule was later overturned by a split faculty vote: 40 voted for ending the syllabi mandate, 35 voted against it, and 7 abstained. While it no longer enforces the requirement, SDSU’s Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity still encourages faculty to incorporate the Land Acknowledgement to “build mindfulness and awareness of colonialism, both past and present.”

To put the Land Acknowledgement’s unsophisticated ideology in perspective, the Kumeyaay People of San Diego have lived in the region for over 10,000 years and currently live on 12 reservations scattered throughout Southern California. The Kumeyaay “were the people who greeted the Spanish when they first sailed into San Diego Harbor with the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo expedition of 1542,” but their population fell from about 30,000 to 50,000 in the mid-1700s to 1,000 at the end of the 19th century. The decimation occurred mainly due to “smallpox and the waves of Spanish-Mexican-American (immigration).” In other words, a “high research activity” regional university has endorsed crude cultural worshiping and propped up an ahistorical account of past events that, in reality, were no more significant than other major American historical episodes.

May I suggest a different and better way for SDSU to be truly uplifting and inclusive of all? Retain qualified educators, regardless of race, to better prepare your students for gainful employment and fulfilling careers. Help more students graduate on time and devise better policies to improve the educational performance of SDSU’s Indigenous students, who have the lowest graduation rate of all demographics. Everything else is just a toxic smokescreen.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on April 7, 2022.


Image: StuSeeger, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Wenyuan Wu

Wenyuan Wu is Executive Director of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation. Twitter: @wu_wenyuan

3 thoughts on “Normalizing Illiberalism

  1. Wu writes:

    The radical reshaping of contemporary American minds towards an unnatural preoccupation with cultural relativism and identity tribalism began at our elite institutions. Harvard invented the holistic review process a century ago to curb the rising number of Jewish admits, which inadvertently morphed into debatable race-conscious admissions.

    I think it is very important to note that “identity tribalism” started at elite universities well before holistic review processes and such. Blacks were simple, for the most part, not able to matriculate at these (or even non-elite) universities. Hence HBCU. As is often the case, the oppressed have adopted the techniques of the oppressor and are now applying it big time.

    On a larger note, when we talk about disrepresentation (and for that matter systematic racism) we are really talking about descendants of slave (who are, of course, Black). If these descendants performed academically as well as whites, we would not be having these issues (or even as well academically as immigrant Africans and their offspring, who are also Black). If societal rewards had not been going disproportionately to the top 20% over the last 40 years, we would not be having this discussion either. This confluence of societal structural change plus hundreds of years of oppression has left us a real problem. Chicom struggle sessions and unseen forces of unconscious bias are not going to solve this problem for us. Let’s discuss things that might.

    1. As to slavery, never forget that one White man from the north died for every ten slaves that were freed, and the GAR didn’t receive a whole lot of social rewards either…

  2. “Retain qualified educators, regardless of race, to better prepare your students for gainful employment and fulfilling careers. Do something meaningful to improve your suboptimal graduation rate (46%) and devise more educational tools to help your Indigenous students, who have the lowest graduation rate of all demographics. Everything else is just a toxic smokescreen.”

    This seems kind of vapid, and at the same time kind of nasty. I go to the link, and find that while the 4 year graduation rate is 46.6%, the five year rate is 71.0%. Doesn’t sound too bad to me for an urban, sub-UC place. In fact, sounds to me like a lot of students from spotty backgrounds managed to make up a huge amount of ground in that fifth year. As for the indigenous graduation rate, it’s actually not that much lower than the white rate, it’s not a chasm.

    Maybe Wenyan Wu doesn’t like a lot of the stuff going on at SDSU. Neither do I. But what positive suggestions does she have instead? How to get that supposedly unsatsifactory 71.0% graduation rate up?

    I happen to have friends who teach at SDSU who are proud of how they help somewhat “marginalized” students get a leg up in life, rather than catering to the kind of crowd that UC or Stanford do.

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