Active: Federal lawsuit filed

A growing number of universities employ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement requirements as job screening tools. The University of California system has baked these statements into its hiring, to screen for applicants from minority backgrounds and those committed to a certain view of racial justice.

UC Santa Cruz is remarkably transparent about its use of DEI statements as a condition of employment, even spelling out how successful statements should include particular beliefs about race, fairness, and other controversial socio-political issues.

The requirement has nothing to do with an applicant’s qualifications and everything to do with their beliefs outside the job opportunity. Yet, candidates who don’t comply won’t even get through the initial screening process. Applicants are forced to agree—or must pretend to agree—thus forfeiting their right to free expression just to apply for a government job. This suppresses dissent, undermines free speech, and slows the progress of science.

J.D. Haltigan knows he won’t get through UC’s DEI statement screen. J.D.’s work centers on child and adolescent mental and physical illness, but his accomplishments and qualifications are unlikely to be considered in his application for a psychology professor position at UC Santa Cruz.

J.D. posted his preferred DEI statement on his Substack newsletter. He expresses his commitment “to colorblind inclusivity, viewpoint diversity, merit-based evaluation, and … outreach to underrepresented groups in higher education.”

But he goes further: “DEI statements have become a political litmus test for political orientation and activism that has created an untenable situation in higher academia where diversity of thought—the bedrock of liberal education—is neither promoted nor tolerated.”

J.D. refuses to feign beliefs he doesn’t share just to be vetted for a job. But he’s not willing to give up his career without a fight, so he’s taking a big swing for liberty and his rights. Represented at no charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, J.D. is fighting back in federal court to defend his right to seek a university job based on his merits, not illegal application conditions.

UC Santa Cruz’s DEI declaration mandates are clearly unconstitutional. Government job seekers should be judged by their qualifications, not an ideological litmus test. Universities do not have carte blanche to engage in deliberate viewpoint discrimination through the hiring process.

A DEI statement requirement is alarmingly similar to the “loyalty oaths” required in the 1950s and 1960s amid the Cold War —most notably by the University of California system. The Supreme Court repeatedly struck down those oaths. And, hopefully, courts will see the same threat to liberty in this case .

What’s At Stake?

  • Applicants for government jobs should be judged by their qualifications for the position, not an ideological litmus test. Academic freedom demands that university professorships, especially, remain free from such unlawful influence.
  • Government officials can neither suppress free expression nor force ideological compliance just because they disagree with a professor’s viewpoint.

Case Timeline

February 02, 2024
Second Amended Complaint
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
May 18, 2023
United States District Court for the Northern District of California