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The director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at a California college said she was “harassed and bullied” out of her job because she wanted to consider the perspectives of people from all races equally.
Dr. Tabia Lee, who is black, told The New York Post that faculty at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, labeled her a “white supremacist” after she pushed to “create safe spaces for everyone.” Lee said that during her review for tenure, she was denied and will be out of a job on June 15.
“Some people wanted me to create spaces that were just safe for them, and that’s not my mission as an educator,” Lee said. “That’s not what I’m here to do.”
Lee worked for years as a middle school teacher and adjunct professor before she landed the job as the DEI director at De Anza in 2021. In that position, one she described as a “dream come true,” Lee focused on designing workshops to promote inclusion, the Post reported. But after starting at De Anza, Lee said she was subject to “daily, endless harassment right from the start.”
On one occasion, Lee said she questioned why school communications capitalized “Black” but not “white.” She pointed to recommendations from the National Association of Black Journalists, which advises that all racial groups should be capitalized.
“For that, I was accused of being a white supremacist,” she said. “These constant accusations of calling people racist or calling them a white supremacists or saying that they’re aligned with right wingers — that’s such ridiculousness. It’s very damaging.”
Lee attempted to set up a summit to address anti-Semitism after Jewish students and faculty came to her, saying they experienced anti-Semitism on campus, but she said some co-workers argued that an event for Jewish people wasn’t important because they too are white oppressors.
The DEI director also said she received flak from her co-workers after she declined an invitation to join a campus socialist network.
“I do not identify as a liberal or a conservative or a Republican or a Democrat or a libertarian or socialist or a communist or a feminist,” she told the Post. “I don’t identify with any of those labels, so I just had no interest in being a part of that.”
Lee said there are others like her in DEI positions who “are trying to do it in an inclusive way … actually being inclusive,” but she lamented that “those people are targeted for elimination and neutralization … by people who are working from extreme ideologies.”
Lee has not ruled out taking legal action against the college.
De Anza’s Coordinator of Communications Paula Norsell responded to Lee’s accusations, telling the Post that “faculty members have comprehensive due process and appeal rights both under the law and negotiated through their bargaining unit.”