Campus Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Makes Anti-Semitism Systemic
University bureaucracies propagandize student in favor of one ideology: DEI.
Two major changes in universities have contributed significantly to the dramatic rise of antisemitism on college campuses.
The first is the creation of large bureaucracies whose purpose is to propagandize students in favor of a particular ideology: diversity, equity and inclusion. The second is the formation of special departments and programs designed to promote the ideologies of particular identity groups, such as Blacks, women, gays, Muslims, Native Americans and Jews.
The multibillion-dollar DEI bureaucracy has become a central contributor to anti-Jewish attitudes on campuses. The effect, if not the intent, of this ideological bureaucracy is to marginalize Jews.
The first component of DEI is diversity, but its definition of diversity is limited to skin color and other aspects of identity politics. It explicitly excludes diversity of opinions, ideas and ideology. The effect is the university looks more diverse, but actually is less diverse in the most important aspect of education, namely ideas. This genre of diversity lowers the number of Jewish students and faculty.
Jews do not conform to diversity in terms of identity politics, even if they do for other aspects of diversity. In fact, the number and percentage of Jews at top-tier universities have declined since the introduction of DEI.
The second element is equity, which is precisely the opposite of equality. Equality is reflected in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that someday his children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Equity demands that people be judged by the color of their skin and other immutable characteristics. Jews thrive on equality and meritocracy. They suffer from the artificial and easily manipulable concept of equity.
Finally, there is the stated goal of inclusion. As former Harvard President Lawrence Summers has noted, DEI inclusion in most bureaucracies explicitly excludes Jews. When inclusion becomes a justification for exclusion, the entire concept must be questioned.
In addition to discrimination against Jews, DEI also discriminates against dissenting views. On many campuses, applicants for admission and jobs must signify approval of DEI. Those of us who fundamentally disagree with the goals and means of DEI are threatened with exclusion if we follow our consciences.
The second development that has plagued universities over the past several decades has been the creation of special departments and programs that pander to specific identity groups. The result has been a massive increase of antisemitism emanating from these identity departments. Many of these departments have voted to boycott and divest from Israel.
Others have invited only anti-Israel and antisemitic speakers, refusing to allow pro-Israel and anti-DEI speakers to express their contrary ideas to students. This includes several Jewish Studies departments, which have followed the woke progressive line of being hypercritical of Israel and Zionism
Universities should teach about all identities with the same critical eye they apply to other subjects. Academia should not have special departments, many of which are nothing more than uncritical cheering squads for particular identities.
The end result of DEI and specialized departments has been to institutionalize antisemitism at many universities. There have always been antisemites among university faculty, administrators and students, but these two developments have turned sporadic individual Jew hatred into systemic antisemitism.
Just as the George Floyd case encouraged a “reckoning” with systemic racism, the recent increase in antisemitism requires universities to engage in a reckoning about how these two developments have contributed to the singling out of Jews and Zionists for discrimination and prejudice on many campuses.
DEI bureaucracies and identity departments have turned identity politics on campus into a zero-sum game. Particular groups benefit at the expense of other groups. Identities are pitted against each other. The result has been for students and faculty to be valued less as individuals and more as members of groups. And some groups on campus are privileged more than other groups. In this hierarchical ranking, Jews are the least privileged — ironically because they are seen as the most privileged by society in general. This encourages antisemitism.
A related cause is that the woke-progressive mindset deplores meritocracy as a criterion for success. And Jews have historically thrived within meritocracy.
There used to be systemic racism, sexism and homophobia in many university admission and hiring decisions. Such systemic prejudice no longer exists. To the contrary, at most of today’s universities, we have systemic anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia.
But this systemic change has contributed to the growing antisemitism on many university campuses. This blight will only get worse unless changes are made in DEI and special academic departments based on identity.
Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, is the author of numerous books, including his latest, “War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism.” He is also the host of The Dershow on Rumble. Follow him @AlanDersh.