Using Your University’s DEI Office: A Call to Action for Conservative Students and Faculty

In my sixth year as a professor—the same year that Barack Obama’s Department of Justice reshaped Title IX into a tool to police political speech on campus—a student filed a Title IX complaint about me. He claimed that the B+ he had received in my class was a result of my “homophobia.” His evidence for this accusation? First, I disagreed when he said in class that LGBT persons encounter discrimination in every corner of the professional world. Second, his complaint noted that I frequently mention my family in class and thereby “endorse a heterosexual lifestyle.”

If this seems like nonsense to you, that’s because it is nonsense. But that didn’t stop the complaint from becoming a major event in my professional life: it triggered an investigation that lasted the better part of a year, it demanded a lot of paperwork from me, and it created significant anxiety as I prepared to go up for tenure. I ultimately learned that the student had been coached by university staff while revising his complaint, and that was enough to exonerate me. But there is a lesson here: the Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that are now a mainstay on our campuses treat even the most frivolous accusations of wrongdoing very seriously.

Generally, DEI offices work to enforce the dictates of wokeness on campus. On both sides of the aisle, students understand that DEI is synonymous with cultural leftism. This means that the complaints students bring to DEI offices tend to claim that someone has run afoul of one of the many pieties of the academic Left. In short, students on the Left use the DEI bureaucracy, while students on the Right try to avoid it. Conservatives’ impulse in this regard is understandable: they intuitively understand that any Title IX or DEI violation could negatively impact their academic and professional aspirations. But what if conservative students learned to utilize the DEI office in the same way as their progressive peers?

One of the stated purposes of DEI offices is to defend the rights of students, faculty, and staff who belong to protected classes. Race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation are examples of these protected categories. If you’re like me—a white, Christian, conservative, heterosexual man (or woman)—you probably think that you don’t belong to a protected class. But you do. Historically speaking, you were far less likely to face open discrimination or hatred for your race (or religion, or sexual orientation) than Americans who were not white (or Christian, or straight). But this is no longer the case. Today, it is not uncommon for people on campus to express hostility toward the identities of the cultural majority.

[Related: “Fighting Back Against Big Brother’s Love”]

You don’t have to spend too much time at a university to hear someone speaking about the toxicity of masculinity, the backwardness of Christianity or Judaism, or the racism of “white people.” These hateful statements have become so routine (especially in humanities departments) that it never occurs to students that such talk could easily serve as the basis of a DEI or Title IX complaint. If you happen to be a man, or a Christian, or an orthodox Jew, or a heterosexual, or a white person, and your professor speaks in disparaging, generalized ways about those who share your identity, you have a very strong case that you are a victim faced with a “hostile learning environment.”

The best way to fight the excesses of campus wokeness is to use the weapons at your disposal. Your school’s DEI Office is the best weapon you have: you are a protected class. Don’t allow the Left to wield DEI unopposed. Conservative students should begin filing complaints for speech that attacks their identity categories—especially when it comes from a professor. DEI is required to investigate actionable complaints.

While it is unlikely that a DEI office will find in your favor (if your complaint regards a hostile attitude toward the identities of the cultural majority), the investigation itself will create work for the professor in question. The procedure could drag on for months. The exhausting nature of such an investigation will almost surely encourage even the wokest professor to think twice before he lectures again on the evils of whiteness. And even if your university refuses to take your complaint seriously, that fact alone is also useful—we begin to build a body of evidence that complaints only gain traction when the event in question offends the sensibilities of certain races, sexes, religions, and sexual orientations.

[Related: “The Sign in Lee Jussim’s Window”]

It’s understandable that many students would be unwilling to file a complaint against a professor, as there is some possibility of retaliation. But there are ways to avoid this. Often, DEI offices will accept anonymous complaints, and in some cases, they will protect your identity even if they know it. More importantly, complaints can be filed up to 180 days after the incident(s). This means you can wait until your course ends, and then file your complaint—after you (hopefully) received the grade you deserved.

In order to ensure your own protection in this process, you should learn the law in your state about recording people without their permission. If it is permissible, recording lectures will help you to irrefutably document your claims. Further, if possible, it is always wise to record your conversations with any representative of the DEI office. This guarantees you will have evidence if they treat your complaint with prejudice or deviate from the established norms of the investigatory process.

Title IX and DEI offices have been weaponized. But because those offices use alleged political neutrality as a fig leaf, we can also use that weapon. Filing complaints of discriminatory speech dares DEI offices to faithfully defend the rights that they claim to defend. Not only that, but such complaints ensure that liberal professors are exposed to the same risks as their conservative colleagues when they speak on campus. This levels the playing field and strongly incentivizes woke academics to self-censor. And at the very least, newly filed complaints gum up the works at the DEI office, demanding time and resources that are already in short supply.

Thus, I invite brave conservative students and faculty to fight wokeness by taking up the weapons at hand. Readers with further questions about this process can contact me by email or through social media.


Image: Adobe Stock

Adam Ellwanger

Adam Ellwanger is a professor of English at the University of Houston - Downtown, where he directs the graduate program in rhetoric and composition. He is a frequent writer for outlets like Human Events, American Greatness, Quillette, and many more. Follow him on Twitter @DoctorEllwanger or on Parler @TheHereticalTruth. Email him at ellwangera@uhd.edu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *