Yoel Inbar's appointment has been blocked by a student petition
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has decided against hiring psychology professor Yoel Inbar after receiving a letter from 65 students (at the time of writing) at the institution, accusing him of taking “a strong stance against promoting DEI initiatives”. Dr Inbar, an academic at Toronto University, was set to be appointed as a tenured faculty member in the UCLA psychology department, before historic comments made on his podcast, Two Psychologists Four Beers, were highlighted by students as a reason not to hire him.
Inbar’s offending remarks were made in two episodes of his podcast, which covers topics such as free speech and anti-racism in academia. In the first of these episodes, recorded in 2018, the professor claimed that his “scepticism about [diversity statements] is that they seem like administrator value signalling. It is not clear what good they do, how they’re going to be used.” In the same episode, he stated that the Left fails to acknowledge that these statements signal “an allegiance to a certain set of beliefs”.
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The other highlighted comments were made in episode 92 of Two Psychologists Four Beers, recorded last year, in which Inbar expressed support for some forms of affirmative action while cautioning against “this other stuff” which uses “certain methodologies based on critical theory […] I don’t think it’s the job of the organisation to be promoting certain subdisciplines”. Inbar also discussed the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)’s stance against Georgia’s decision to outlaw all abortions after six weeks following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade last year, describing its position as “quite extreme” and suggesting that “when we align ourselves with a political side or faction it’s bad for our science”.
In response to these statements, the letter’s signatories claim that “serious consideration of Dr. Inbar directly conflicts with the values and standards we uphold as an institution and department committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”. Moreover, they “believe that Dr. Inbar would not enter the Social Area as a member committed to creating a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment, and that his hiring would threaten ongoing efforts to protect and uplift individuals of marginalized backgrounds”.
The letter also cites a meeting between Inbar and graduate students on 22nd January this year, in which the professor “initially prioritized asking us questions about the Psychology Department and life as graduate students”. The UCLA students then “interjected to reframe the discussion and ask pointed questions about his past and prospective efforts in advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts both in mentorship and in his line of research”. His responses were deemed “less than satisfactory”, and in some cases “outright disconcerting”. For instance, the letter states, he pointed out that his “work does not really deal with identity, so these issues don’t come up for [him] in a research context”.
Because Inbar’s research specialism is morality and social values, the signatories insisted that “considerations of identity cannot accurately be disentangled from the study of prejudice and moral behavior”, and that his indifference to DEI initiatives therefore constituted fair grounds for not hiring him. Inbar also reportedly attended a dinner with faculty during which he labelled “a graduate student who is a woman of color as ‘intense’ in response to her questions about DEI efforts”. Speaking to UnHerd, Inbar claimed that this interpretation “mischaracterize[d]” the interaction between him and the student in question, who was one of the authors of the letter.
The mission statement of UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion says that it “leads and advances strategies for enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion; protecting civil rights; and upholding dignity for all in our community”.
The letter was addressed to three UCLA psychology academics: Dr Carolyn Parkinson, Dr Benjamin Karney and Dr Hal Hershfield. All three, as well as the department’s graduate studies office, were contacted for comment.