White gays and Jews not welcome? Fired diversity official sues college for 'de-centering whiteness'
Tabia Lee irritated BLM cofounder by letting students ask questions, endured "struggle session" with racial affinity groups for challenging their segregation and racial stereotypes, she says.
Silicon Valley community college officials said "White gays and lesbians" were not welcome in its LGBT center, called Jews "White oppressors" and refused repeated requests to address antisemitism, and forced staff to mouth a "land acknowledgment" that misidentified local indigenous tribes, according to a former diversity official.
The First Amendment lawsuit by Tabia Lee builds on allegations she made against De Anza College, Foothill-De Anza Community College District and officials after they declined to renew her contract this spring, which she called retaliation for challenging its "empty 'antiracism' gesture[s]" that reinforce racial stereotypes such as the "noble savage" and for acting like "an 'uppity' Black woman."
Officials functionally shut Lee out of the Office of Equity, Social Justice, and Multicultural Education where she had served as tenure-track faculty director since fall 2021 and "censored" her when she filed grievances, the suit claims.
One of her transgressions was letting students ask Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza spontaneous questions at a campus event.
The college justified Lee's non-renewal based on negative tenure review evaluations citing what Lee called "impermissible viewpoints," especially criticism of racial affinity groups and the "cultural imperialism" of the neologisms Latinx and Filipinx, while ignoring positive evaluations from students and neglecting observations of her class. Her last day was June 30.
Even then, "of the twenty-eight scores assigned to Dr. Lee by her evaluators," only one was "unsatisfactory" and 22 were the "highest possible rating," the suit states. "She questioned an orthodoxy. It cost her her job," the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which is sponsoring Lee's lawsuit, said Thursday.
The suit alleges violations of the First Amendment by state actors, the California constitution's free speech provisions, the state's employment laws and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for forcing Lee to "project hostile stereotypes of Black Americans" in official duties and repeatedly saying she was not the "right kind of Black person."
Chancellor Judy Miner's declaration in December that the district's official policy is "de-centering whiteness" – a talismanic phrase repeatedly invoked to Lee – created a "severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" hostile environment, she alleges.
Lee had already endured a "struggle session" led by racial affinity groups, which had recently been given "special voting rights in the Academic Senate," at a board of trustees meeting six months earlier, she alleges. She had responded to this campus policy change by calling for demographics without affinity groups to have the same "resources."
De Anza compelled Lee to take a webinar on de-centering whiteness before she even finished onboarding, whose "racist message" she assumed was "only one of the many diverse perspectives" available, but she soon learned it was the "orthodoxy enforced" by the college.
Just a month into the job, the faculty coordinator of the Women, Gender and Sexuality (now Pride) Center, which is physically located in Lee's former office, brushed off a complaint that whites don't feel "welcome" there.
"I am not trying to make this a space for White gays and lesbians" because they "have the whole campus already," Francesca Caparas allegedly said at a team meeting, and Lee's program coordinator, Tony Santa Ana, agreed the "whole center is for people of color."
Lee's first report to the Academic Senate and its distribution to campus put a target on her back, according to the suit.
She shared a dispute with an unidentified colleague "I highly respect" who said Lee's advocacy for "ideologically inclusive" governance was a hindrance to "anti-racist work," and Lee called for "protecting Academic Freedom for all."
Associate Vice President of Instruction Lydia Hearn, who would later serve on her tenure review committee and write a negative evaluation, warned her that even referring to this colleague was unprofessional, Lee claims.
The college steadily marginalized Lee from her official functions, with Dean of Equity and Engagement Alicia Cortez ordering the removal of Lee's events from the college events calendar and delisting her events as qualifying for continuing education credits. The college also stripped its official primatur from her "presentations and pedagogical materials," the suit states.
Her administrative assistant, Adriana Garcia, "repeatedly locked" the office's website so Lee could not post "content on topics of public concern," and Cortez unilaterally told Lee in February she was no longer department chair of the office, preventing her from meeting with faculty on Academic Senate topics.
Lee's concern for Jewish campus members provoked hostility, she claims. She reported professor Cynthia Kaufman – another subsequent tenure committee review member – for organizing "suppression of Jewish events," with no resulting investigation by Cortez, yet the dean and Lee's own staff "obstructed" her from hosting workshops on Jewish culture and heritage.
Cortez shot down her suggestions that the college recognize International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Jewish-American Heritage Month and condemn antisemitism on its website, according to Lee.
In an Equity Action Council meeting with the local Hillel to discuss antisemitism complaints, Garcia shared "resources about anti-Zionist and anti-Israel organizations," the suit states.
When Lee later objected, Garcia justified the instigation by referring to Jews as "White oppressors," which Cortez did not dispute. Even though Lee was faculty lead on the council, they removed her from future meetings.
The college and the district did not respond to queries from Just the News.