The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) has a specific persona—founded in 1968, it is a private, accredited institution advocating an “integral approach to education.” Its mission is to “embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities and the Earth.” These ideals draw students and faculty to CIIS, but faculty members also likely find assurance in CIIS’ broad commitments to academic freedom, which guarantee them “freedom in the classroom in presenting their subject,” and “freedom in the selection of textbooks … and other teaching materials.”
But as today’s press release shows, those commitments to academic freedom have recently been left by the wayside. In March, psychology professor Leland van den Daele assigned his “Lifespan Development” class an article that he wrote in 1970 called “Preschool Intervention Through Social Learning for Disadvantaged Children,” published in Howard University’s Journal of Negro Education. A student complained that the article was racist to CIIS’ Diversity Action Team, which initiated a review of the article. Students then met with CIIS President Joseph Subbiondo to contend that the article represented “institutional racism.” Subbiondo notified the CIIS community via e-mail that the “incident” would be resolved by an investigation into Van den Daele’s use of the article and his course. The entire psychology doctoral program is also now up for review.
Van den Daele’s defense is worth hearing. Van den Daele wrote the article in 1970 after having worked with African-American children in Mississippi. The article was peer-reviewed, found to be credible, and then published by Howard University. Students reportedly objected to the article’s use of the term “negro”—though it was an acceptable term when the article was written in 1970. Van den Daele even told the Diversity Action Team that part of his intention was to show “historical change since the publication of the document.”
Instead of listening to these explanations and realizing that sometimes teaching involves revisiting and rationally discussing terms and opinions that have fallen out of popular favor, CIIS launched an attack on Professor Van den Daele. This is a case of political correctness run amok, and FIRE hopes that the investigations will end.