Only Candidates of Color Need Apply?

In higher ed, the fight against a racial spoils system continues.

Five finalists are selected by a hiring committee for a tenure-track faculty position at a reputable regional university. The candidates are ranked based on skills and competencies. The top applicant is white. The second place is held by an Asian American and the third by an African American. Who do you think should get the job?

In a merit-based system, the top-ranked individual should be hired. His or her race must not be factored in. Our laws, from the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to federal and state civil-rights statutes, dictate race neutrality. But in our present-day reality, wherein decisions are so often filtered through the culturally prevailing prisms of race and identity, the most qualified applicant is often refused a job offer if he or she is not a so-called underrepresented minority (URM).

The University of Washington (UW), the number-one public university in the Evergreen State, where racial preferences in public employment and public education have been banned since 1998 via the citizen-approved Initiative 1000, has furnished the public with the latest example of ideology overtaking merit and law. The school was recently revealed by an internal whistleblower to have awarded a less-qualified applicant “of color” a Department of Psychology faculty position in April 2023, overlooking white and Asian candidates who were ranked higher in the selection process.

When decisions are filtered through the prism of race, the most qualified applicant is often refused a job.Initially, the search for a “Diversity in Development” faculty member produced 84 applicants, five of whom were selected as finalists. The department’s hiring committee unanimously decided on the order of offers after consulting an internal hiring rubric, with first place going to a white applicant, second to an Asian American, and third to an African American. The committee then prepared an offer letter to the strongest candidate, who happened to be white.

The next day, the hiring committee was asked by UW’s Strategic Planning Committee to explain “why a white candidate was #1 and a URM #3.” Five days later, UW’s Diversity Advisory Committee requested that the hiring committee reassess its ranking decision and observe UW’s official DEI hiring policy. After meeting with groups such as “Faculty of Color” and “Women Faculty,” the hiring committee eventually revised the ranking to select the URM candidate for the first offer.

The position was therefore offered not to the academically best candidate but to the one who best satisfied the demand for “diversity.”

Much to UW’s embarrassment, a public-records request made by the National Association of Scholars unearthed multiple communication records between the hiring committee and the Faculty of Color group discussing the exclusion of white faculty from meetings with the candidates. The groups also colluded to cover up racial classifications in hiring and talked about circumventing the Supreme Court’s landmark ban on race-based college admissions.

A member of the Faculty of Color group complained about having white faculty present for the job interviews:

[W]hen the candidate is White, it is just awkward. The last meeting was uncomfortable, and I would go as far as burdensome for me. Can we change the policy to not do these going forward with White faculty?

That member went one step further to lobby for holding Faculty of Color meetings for candidates of color only. The same person also warned against “overcorrect(ing) into colorblindness” in light of “the pending Supreme Court affirmative action rulings” and suggested “preemptively think(ing) our way around this type of future directive.”

Devotees to DEI are all too willing to dismiss our longstanding legal tradition of equal justice.Far-left ideologues have cast an all-powerful spell on our higher-education system. Devotees to the doctrine of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are all too willing to dismiss our longstanding legal tradition of equal justice to perpetuate new forms of discrimination. These radicals certainly called the shots in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington.

The DEI mobs also run amok in too many other colleges and universities. The University of California, Los Angeles, recently named a professor of sociology and African American studies as executive vice chancellor and provost. What is this leader’s track record? He “expanded and continued to diversify [UCLA’s social-sciences division’s] world-class faculty.”

Compton College and the University of Southern California recently unveiled a plan for a “Faculty Prep Academy,” open only to “students of color.” The California Faculty Association, the union representing nearly 30,000 employees in America’s largest public university system, issued a statement threatening a “systemwide strike” if the California State University leadership do not address the union’s demands for “equity transformations.” Those demands include limiting police power on campus and providing “a gender-inclusive restroom within five minutes” of every faculty member’s work site.

Like Washington, California has outlawed preferences on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnicity, and national origin in public employment, education, and contracting, again via a citizen-initiated ballot measure (Proposition 209). In 2020, proponents of race-based affirmative action attempted to overturn Prop 209 with Prop 16, which was put on the ballot by the Democratic-supermajority state legislature in the name of “allowing diversity.” This time, a more diverse and progressive electorate in California overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to legalize discrimination and instead chose equal treatment.

In spite of Prop 16’s colossal failure, Sacramento Democrats are once again plotting to circumvent Prop 209 with a new proposal: Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 7 (ACA7) in the 2023-24 legislative session. Rather than enacting a blanket repeal, ACA7 proposes to allow the governor to authorize exemptions to the ban on preferences so long as he or she can point to research in support of such exceptions. Given the hyper-partisanship of the California state government and the growing tendency of politicians to weaponize research, ACA7 is a de facto reversal of the state’s equal-protection guarantee.

Cracks are starting to show in the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” house of cards.After the Supreme Court ruled against race-based admissions in June 2023, higher-education institutions showed defiance in their continued endorsement of such amorphous diversity rationales. In response to the ruling, Harvard reaffirmed that an academic community “comprising people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences” is its fundamental principle.

This year, the University of Chicago’s physical sciences department is inviting its students, staff, and faculty to apply for “Inclusive Climate Grants.” Applicants must demonstrate their willingness to support and advance the department’s DEI mission and vision. The University of Michigan currently has 241 employees focused on DEI, spends $30 million annually on DEI payroll costs, and has 76 part-time “DEI Unit Leads.”

Fortunately, cracks are starting to show in this house of cards.

After the National Association of Scholars exposé, the UW Civil Rights Investigation Office barred the psychology department from hiring tenured faculty for two years. The ousting of Harvard’s president Claudine Gay, a DEI appointee who plagiarized her way up the academic ladder, is a similarly eye-opening experience for the American people, who are finally starting to confront the entrenched intellectual rot and moral crises in America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

And New York University, bowing to pressure as a result of a federal civil-rights complaint by Legal Insurrection, permanently discontinued a “Whites-only,” “anti-racist” parent program. A nonprofit called FairAdmissions@MIT is threatening to sue the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for unlawfully rejecting male applicants for less-qualified female ones to advance gender parity.

The diversity-crazed establishment will not concede easily. The battle to prevent higher education from sacrificing excellence and fairness on the altar of political expediency has to be fought in the court of law and the court of public opinion, both valiantly and continuously. In all cases, the role of courageous whistleblowers, professors, staff, and students who help “sunshine” the evidence of discrimination and indoctrination is crucial. Wider society should encourage them. As the Martin Center’s Graham Hillard eloquently reasons,

Public officials have a unique role in holding universities to account. But nothing can replace the voice (or voices) on campus willing to say, of “progressive” racism, This is wrong. Such men and women deserve our thanks.

The University of Washington case highlights the chasm between the supermajority of Americans who believe in rewarding people based on merit and a small but politically powerful segment of elites who would hand out favors to people simply because they happen to have the preferred racial background. Since the early 1990s, every major poll on race and merit has demonstrated a steadily growing and bipartisan consensus against racial spoils. This consensus is further consolidated by ballot history, even in some of America’s most progressive states. It is time we take concrete action to defend this consensus.

Wenyuan Wu holds a Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Miami and is the executive director of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation.