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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Owens labels diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as ‘cancer’ within educational institutions


WASHINGTON ⁢— In a House hearing on Thursday morning, Rep. Burgess Owens, a Republican⁤ from‍ Utah, likened diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to ‌”a deeply-rooted malignancy within the heart of American academia.”

The hearing,⁤ dubbed “Polarizing, ⁣Excessive,⁢ Ineffective: The True Consequences of DEI ⁣on University Campuses,” was chaired⁣ by Owens, who also heads the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. The⁤ discussion revolved around the effects of DEI initiatives on ⁢medical institutions and the ⁤issue ⁣of ‍antisemitism in universities.

In his ​introductory remarks, Owens expressed ⁢his belief that these initiatives foster a ⁣”distorted perspective” of America, portraying the nation as “a hierarchy built on racial oppressors and the racially oppressed.”

This congressional hearing follows closely‍ on the heels​ of the Utah Legislature’s decision to revamp DEI initiatives‌ in public institutions, ‌encompassing universities, schools, and other ⁢state entities.

The newly enacted‌ law, ‌signed by Utah Gov. Spencer ⁢Cox on Jan. 30, mandates training for university employees on the importance of free speech and the conduction of climate surveys, ⁤the findings of which must ‌be disclosed to lawmakers. The state ‍reserves the⁤ right to withhold funding if institutions fail to comply with these requirements.

At the congressional hearing in Washington, Owens, who represents Utah’s ⁤4th District, ⁤stated, “DEI bureaucrats are employed not merely to regulate conversations but also to suppress free speech and ⁤open dialogue by exerting influence over every aspect of university administration, personnel, curriculum policy,‍ and college admissions.”

Partisan Disagreement‌ over the Purpose of the Program

Owens argued that these programs encourage ‌Black Americans to⁢ view their race as “feeble” and to “anticipate the promise of slavery reparations.” He further stated that DEI initiatives⁣ suggest that Black Americans, like himself, who demonstrate the determination and resilience to succeed, ⁢are outliers rather than the norm.

DEI is both belittling and racist,” Owens declared, citing ‌the silencing of scholars who ⁢dare to challenge it.

Owens highlighted the⁣ financial burden‌ of DEI initiatives across the nation: $30 million annually at the University ‌of Michigan, $20‍ million at ‍Ohio State, $16 million at the University of Western Wisconsin, ⁢and $11 million‍ at Texas A&M.

What is the outcome?” Owens queried. “More hatred?​ More resentment? ‍And more racism?

Ranking chairwoman Suzanne Bonamici, a ‌Democrat from Oregon, countered⁤ Owens’ ‌comparison of DEI initiatives to cancer, which she found “perplexing and quite offensive to anyone who has battled cancer.” In response, Owens, ⁤a cancer survivor himself, stood by his initial statement.

Bonamici argued that DEI offices strive to provide support and identify obstacles in ‍the education system​ to cater ⁣to “the needs of increasingly diverse populations, many of whom are first-generation college students.”

Unfortunately, some Republican-led state ⁣legislatures have‌ deemed DEI offices as too expensive,” she noted.

Bonamici‌ suggested that universities where DEI initiatives are falling short should be encouraged to‍ improve, ⁤rather than ​being outrightly ​condemned.

The Influence of DEI⁣ Initiatives in Medical Schools

Prior ⁢to questioning​ the witnesses, Owens‌ mentioned an article he read about ​Columbia University facing criticism for a ‌2021 viral video in which students recited ‌a modified version of the ​Hippocratic oath during a white coat ceremony.

The altered oath included ‍phrases such as​ “We also acknowledge the ​acts​ and systems​ of⁢ oppression perpetrated in the ​name of⁢ medicine,” and‍ “We take this oath of service to commence ⁢building a⁢ future rooted in truth, restoration, and equity to realize​ medicine’s potential to liberate.”

Owens asked ⁣witness Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, the chairman of Do No Harm, a ‍medical association opposing liberal ideology, whether the original oath mentions “systems⁤ of oppression in medicine.” Goldfard confirmed that ⁣the​ original ​oath did⁣ not ‍contain​ any such statements. When Owens inquired whether the purpose of medicine is to liberate, Goldfard, once again, responded with a “no.”

Doctors must retain a wealth ⁤of information, sift through it, comprehend human variability, and apply it to individual patients,” Goldfard‌ explained. “That’s why I firmly‍ believe that academic‌ achievement should be⁢ the primary criterion ‌for admission into⁢ medical school.”

I ‌think⁣ we can all agree ⁤that ​this‍ is one profession where meritocracy should be the primary focus,” Owens concurred.

DEI Initiatives and Antisemitism in Universities

Owens then directed his next​ question to Jay Greene, a⁢ senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s⁢ Center ⁣for⁢ Education Policy, about the impact of⁢ DEI initiatives ​on the Jewish community.

In his ​opening statement, ⁣Greene stated that instances of antisemitism⁣ in universities are not ‌isolated incidents. In his analysis of X accounts of university DEI staff, ⁣Greene‌ found evidence of “vehement hostility toward” ⁢Israel. He noted that these staff members posted “three⁤ times as often about ‌Israel as they⁢ do about China.” The language used to express this animosity includes terms like “apartheid, colonialism, genocide, and ethnic ‌cleansing.”

Owens then turned to witness Erec Smith, an associate professor of rhetoric​ at York College of Pennsylvania ​and a CATO research fellow, asking him to elaborate on his statements about DEI initiatives being “subtly anti-Black,” ⁢and how he was labeled a “white supremacist” for opposing these initiatives as a Black ‌academic.

In his opening statement, Smith⁢ mentioned prescriptive ⁢racism, which assigns “certain values, attitudes, and behaviors to someone based on ⁢their race,” as a component of‌ social justice reform.

He cited instances of professors allowing and encouraging Black students to write in African American vernacular, also known as ‌Ebonics. When students refused to abandon standardized English, these professors perceived⁤ it “as a ⁣form of self-hatred ​and internalized racism,” Smith explained.

Teaching standardized English is not⁢ inherently racist,” he assured Owens.

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  1. Agree. Owens’ divisive rhetoric only undermines efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students.


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