update deskSchools & Higher Education

Diversity, equity and inclusion ‘cannot be fixed,’ Abe Foxman says

The former longtime ADL head, and David Harris, who led the American Jewish Committee, believe that DEI should be scrapped, rather than reformed, in higher education.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the 
Anti-Defamation League in 2009. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in 2009. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Abe Foxman and David Harris—who led the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee respectively for a combined half a century—see diversity, equity and inclusion programs in higher education as irredeemable, the two leaders told Jewish Insider recently.

“Foxman’s and Harris’s stances contrast with their organizations’ current positions on how to deal with DEI,” the publication reported. “ADL and AJC leaders told JI this week their organizations are urging universities to better incorporate Jews into the DEI infrastructure, instead of calling on them to dismantle the ideology behind DEI altogether.”

Yet Foxman, who was the ADL national director for 28 years—stepping down in 2015—told the publication that DEI, which he said is based on the “faulty premise” that all white people oppress all people of color, “cannot be fixed.”

“It has built a huge funded bureaucracy which is today difficult to change or amend. Efforts by communal Jewish organizations to include the Jewish community or soften its impact on antisemitism have failed,” he said. “It needs to be scrapped and replaced by a vigorous implementation of our civil rights laws that are color blind, and apply equally to all.”

Miguel Cardona
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers remarks at the Digital Equity Summit on Sept. 28, 2022. Credit: Flickr/U.S. Department of Education.

“If necessary some civil rights laws can be amended and strengthened,” he added. “DEI was developed to eliminate bias but sadly it created bias.”

The CEO of the American Jewish Committee from 1990 to 2022, Harris told Jewish Insider that DEI has “evolved into a mammoth, ideologically-driven presence on many campuses, some of which have literally hundreds of staff working exclusively in this space.”

“I don’t believe that outside efforts, however well-intentioned, that nibble around the edges or simply seek to add Jews to the DEI agenda, address the heart of the problem,” he said. “DEI today poses a major challenge to liberal understanding of American societal aims, so the goal of rethinking it conceptually is far more urgent than just trying to get along with it.”

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, announced plans to introduce measures on Thursday to eliminate DEI funding in the state’s schools. “We do not want kids to be told that they are oppressors or victims based on their skin color. We instead want our kids to be told that they are each individually created by God, and they can do great things, and that’s up to them as individuals,” Walters said. 

A recent poll suggested that among 18-24 year-olds, 79% supported the view that white people are oppressors, and 67% said that Jews are oppressors.

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