NAZARIAN: Antisemitic Campus Protests Expose DEI’s Failure. Here’s An Alternative That Actually Works.

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Sheila Nazarian Contributor
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American college campuses are gripped by a wave of revolutionary fervor eerily reminiscent of what I witnessed in Iran during its Islamic Revolution.

If the vast “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” bureaucracies on college campuses truly cared about fostering inclusion and harmony — let alone the values of Western civilization — they would take a loud and forceful stand against mobs excluding Jewish students from public spaces and chanting for their annihilation. Instead, DEI personnel have been conspicuously quiet. It’s part of a familiar pattern. 

Time and again, DEI ignores Jews — if we’re lucky. More often, DEI adopts an antagonistic position toward Jews and Israel. As Do No Harm senior fellow Dr. Tabia Lee, a former DEI Director at a California college, recently told me, in the critical social justice orthodoxies embraced by DEI, the world is organized along a spectrum of oppression. The position of each identity group along that spectrum is largely defined by their perceived power compared to other groups. 

For American Jews, the social justice framework means overrepresentation in high-status professions like medicine must have occurred through injustice and exploitation. For Israel, it means culpability for the human suffering in a war Hamas started.

Consider: a DEI program coordinator at the University of Maryland publicly defended Hamas as a legitimate political party that has been “demonized” by the West. A DEI head at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry emailed the student body with an article glorifying the Palestinian Intifadas (i.e. terror campaigns). A professor at the University of Minnesota emerged as a candidate for a top DEI position despite publicly denying that Hamas fighters committed acts of sexual violence on Oct. 7. 

While these examples might be particularly ugly and extreme, they are emblematic of a larger phenomenon. A Heritage Foundation report observed that 96 percent of Twitter content (i.e. likes, posts, and reposts) that DEI personnel generated on the topic of Israel was critical. China received only one-third of the attention focused on Israel, and 62 percent of content directed at China was positive. 

Equally conspicuous and alarming is a pattern of DEI officials and their allies only defending free speech when it comes to Jews and Israel. DEI generally smothers free expression and creates a climate in which people fear that the slightest “microaggression” could lead to grave personal or professional consequences. When it comes to Jews and Israel, however, DEI officials suddenly transform into free speech absolutists who insist — as three university presidents infamously framed it before Congress — that infractions must rise to the level of “conduct.” At the University of Wisconsin, for example, the DEI chief called upon Jewish students to embrace “vigorous, honest debate” after antisemitic graffiti was discovered on campus. 

The good news is that despite efforts to silence DEI opponents, Americans — especially in the Jewish community — are waking up to the illiberal toxicity of DEI. Dramatic corporate pullback on DEI spending and a recent critical segment on the reliably left-leaning “The Daily Show” represent particularly strong indicators of where things are trending. 

As DEI retreats, what comes next? Coleman Hughes — a young black conservative who has rightfully achieved stardom with his clear-eyed vision for progress — implores us “to consciously disregard race as a reason to treat individuals differently and as a category on which to base public policy.” In other words, doing the opposite of DEI and focusing on people as individuals rather than members of identity groups. 

This value system could be institutionalized within businesses, schools, and government agencies. I call it DTALE  “Diversity of Thought and Life Experience.”

Human beings are complex and beautifully unique in our values and life experiences. We should reject the essentialization of racial, ethnic, or sexual identity grouping and instead acknowledge the value of having diversity in values and sharing with each other the lens through which we see the world.

Diversity in thought and experience helps to combat groupthink and instead cultivate a robust and open marketplace of ideas. The better angels of our nature would surely prevail, with concepts like American exceptionalism and meritocracy winning out over the cynicism and racial hierarchies imposed by DEI. 

The DEI advocates, of course, don’t see things that way. For them, the solution is always more DEI. Amid rising Jew hatred at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, the dean promised to intensify DEI efforts to address antisemitism. Similarly, Tennessee legislation that would have banned DEI in public universities was derailed in part by a letter from the Knoxville Jewish Alliance expressing support for DEI.

This is a dead end. Jews will only suffer disappointment when seeking special protection under the DEI regime. Our best hope for combating antisemitism is to actualize the worldview that Coleman Hughes preaches. Instead of competing in the Oppression Olympics, we should strive to build a future in which Jews are treated as individuals according to the content of their character.

DTALE — not DEI — is the path forward. 

Sheila Nazarian, M.D. is a prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, and star of the Emmy-nominated Netflix original series, “Skin Decision: Before and After.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.