Higher Education

David Randall, Ph.D. | June 30, 2020

‘Social justice’ rampant at OU

David Randall, Ph.D.

Social justice education, which seeks to subordinate all aspects of higher education to the pursuit of a progressive political agenda, pervades American higher education. Alas, as I’ve described in a recent article, it’s come to Oklahoma’s universities too.

But social justice education operates differently on each campus, and every student suffers from a unique social justice regime. Let’s take a look at social justice education at one particular school, the University of Oklahoma, where the new interim provost is—you guessed it—the founding director of OU’s Center for Social Justice.

OU supercharged its social justice bureaucracy as the bureaucratically convenient way to deal with a race scandal. In 2015 OU fraternity members were recorded singing a chant with racially inflammatory lyrics. OU should have summoned the moral courage to declare the students’ speech sinful and disgraceful to gentlemen—even if it was a constitutionally protected exercise of free speech. Instead OU arbitrarily and unconstitutionally expelled two students and—because bureaucrats always think the solution is more bureaucrats—created a new diversity bureaucracy, which immediately began the collective punishment of faculty and students by means of “diversity training.”

Social justice advocates drew the obvious lesson and began to publicize non-issues as evidence of systemic racism that required OU to impose more social justice bureaucracy and regulation. OU promptly capitulated by “promising mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all faculty and staff members.” The social justice cadres know what to do. Henceforth Oklahomans can expect them to manufacture at least one problematic incident a year so as to justify thickening OU’s social justice bureaucracy and regulation. OU’s existing nodes of social justice advocacy, eager for more money and manpower, will avidly publicize each “incident.”

OU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) hosts OU’s largest single social justice (not just diversity) bureaucracy: OU’s job advertisement for Director of Diversity and Inclusion explicitly required “demonstrated commitment to social justice.” ODI certainly imposes social justice throughout the university. ODI has imposed a University Plan to require “diversity and inclusion” by means such as thinly euphemized race quotas for hiring and admissions, as well as catechism in diversity ideology via measures such as “bias training for faculty, staff, and administrators through the Ally Trainings (Unlearning Racism, Sexism, Ableism, and Classism), and LGBT Ally training through the Gender + Equality Center.”

ODI imposes this diversity ideology via an ever-expanding bureaucracy. As of April 2020, this included 17 employees on its own staff, 32 diversity liaisons scattered among OU’s subordinate bureaucracies, and 10 members of the Diversity and Inclusivity Academic Council

ODI’s means include the mandatory Freshman Diversity Experience, which transforms orientation into a re-education session about “privilege,” “implicit bias,” “stereotype threat,” and “attributional ambiguity”; the Bias Response Committee, which coordinates OU’s volunteer thought-police; Unconscious Bias Training; and a further host of measures to forward social justice advocacy. These include Diversity Education and Training; financial assistance to ODI clients by way of “community-building grants and events such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Week and “Unlearning Trans + Homonegativity.”

OU’s Women and Gender Studies (WGS) department hosts the university’s second largest node of social justice activism. As with ODI, WGS explicitly advocates for social justice: the 2019 job advertisement for the Women and Gender Studies Chair required “a demonstrated commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Although many of WGS’s classes and activities generally forward social justice activism, the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) houses WGS’s largest social justice subcomponent. CSJ sponsors an Activist-in-Residence Program (“brings social justice activists to campus to interact directly with students”); Graduate Student Research Fellows (“aims to facilitate networking and interdisciplinary collaboration and support multidisciplinary approaches to social justice research”); Teach OUt on Race (“Designed for a range of participants from budding allies to experienced activists, the Teach OUt is an opportunity for attendees to intentionally consider what it means to practice anti-racism across the spaces where we teach, learn, and lead.”); Robert D. Lemon Social Justice Awards (“Nominees must be part of the University of Oklahoma community. They may be members of any department or unit. They must be involved in a project/organization dedicated toward some issue of social justice.”); and social media campaigns to remind students that “History of Activism counts for WGS credit!”

Beyond these nodes, a host of bureaucracies at OU forward social justice, including Community Engagement; the Health Sciences Center; the School of Social Work; and University Libraries. Social justice advocacy can suborn any part of higher education.

Social justice hasn’t yet sunk deeply into OU’s General Education Requirements. So far, OU only requires students to take a course in Non-Western Culture, which steers students to take courses such as ENGL 3643 Original Black Lives Matter, IAS Culture, Power, and Global Environment, and NAS 3693 Gender and Sexuality in Native North America—but still allows them to take worthwhile courses, such as HIST 2013 Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. However, a large number of academic programs have been partly or wholly folded into social justice activism, including the Diversity Studies (Social Justice LeadershipAfrican American Studies, Contemporary Social Issues (Prison Industrial Complex); Human Resource Development and Workforce Diversity (Diversity and Justice in Organizations); Latinx Studies (Human Diversity and Social Justice); LGBTQ Studies (Queer Theory); Native American Studies (Critical Indigenous Theory); Nonprofit Organizational Studies (Social Justice and Social Change); Non-Governmental Organizations (International Activism); Organizational Leadership (Cultural Diversity in the World); and Social Justice itself, whose two required courses are Social Justice and Change and Social Justice Internship.

OU’s bureaucracy and professoriate alike forward social justice advocacy. The bureaucracy’s worse, but the professors are no angels. They’ll get worse, too, as job advertisements that require social justice commitments ensure that only social justice advocates get hired to teach.

OU could be worse. San Francisco State University, for example, has 17 different general education requirements that steer students toward taking social justice courses, including one forthright requirement to take a course in Social Justice. CU Boulder, Colorado’s flagship public university, suffers from worse social justice activism at CU Engage than OU suffers at its Center for Social Justice. Kansas University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs sponsors a Tunnel of Oppression; OU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion hasn’t. Yet.

These universities show how social justice education will grow at OU—from Kansas-size, to Colorado-size, to California-size. OU inevitably will go down the same route, from Tunnels of Oppression to Social Justice General Education Requirements.

Unless Oklahomans defund social justice education in their public universities now.

David Randall, Ph.D.

David Randall is the research director of the National Association of Scholars. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Columbia University, a master’s degree in library science from the Palmer School at Long Island University, and a B.A. from Swarthmore College. Prior to working at NAS he was the sole librarian at the John McEnroe Library at New York Studio School.

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