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DEI in retreat. A captured imam is freed. An anti-Israel map is taken down. Plus, Carole Hooven on leaving Harvard, a hostage speaks, and more.

Oliver Wiseman

January 17, 2024

We’ve reported on a lot of bad news of late. (Don’t blame us! It’s rough out there!) But sometimes there is actual good news. Today, we bring you three bright spots. 

First: the great DEI rollback 

We’ve reported extensively on the spread of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus and in the workplace. The spread of DEI has led to a great deal of censorship and bullying in the name of ensuring safe spaces. What’s more, these programs often undermine their purported goals, driving colleagues and students apart rather than bringing them together. (Scroll down to read Carole Hooven’s essay on how she got caught in a DEI web that ultimately meant she had to leave Harvard. Or watch Bari speak about its pernicious forces in her monologue: “Why DEI Must End for Good.”)

So, here at The Free Press, we’re happy to see these programs being scaled back, and in some cases, shut down entirely. As John Sailer reports for us today, DEI is in retreat:

Lawmakers in more than a dozen red states have either passed or proposed sweeping higher education reform packages curtailing DEI initiatives. Florida banned state funding for DEI programs. Texas banned DEI offices outright. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order in December that prohibited funding DEI initiatives not just at universities but within all state agencies. Elsewhere, university trustees and regents have played a pivotal role in reform efforts.

Read his full roundup here: 



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Second: an imam is freed in Gaza

Readers will remember the piece we published two weeks ago by Ala Mohammed Mushtaha, who revealed how his father, a respected imam in Gaza, had been kidnapped by Hamas because he refused to brainwash his people with their politics. By revealing the details of his father’s abduction, Ala knew he was taking a gamble. He explained why, writing: “My hope in telling this story to the public, and putting my name to it, is to somehow offer my father a measure of protection. Hamas may wish to release him and show the world that they would never harm an admired mosque preacher.”

Well, we have good news: we have confirmed via two Gazan civilians familiar with the case that Mushtaha was released from captivity on January 6. 

Ghaith al-Omari, the senior Palestinian affairs expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained the dynamics behind Mushtaha’s release: “Hamas is very sensitive to public information that challenges its claim to Islamic legitimacy. One such challenge came last year when Iraqi clerics issued a fatwa denouncing Hamas for its oppression of a Muslim population. Another, which happened this month, was the revelation that it had kidnapped a respected cleric in Gaza. As word spread of Mohammed Mushtaha’s abduction, first in the media and then through Palestinian demands for his release, Hamas appears to have decided that the political cost of holding him captive was too great.”


This story was part of our ongoing Voices from Gaza collaboration with the Center for Peace Communications. Look for more stories to come from our partnership.

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Carole Hooven: Why I Left Harvard

After I stated banal facts about human biology, I found myself caught in a DEI web, without the support to do the job I loved. The only way out was to leave…

Carole Hooven

January 16, 2024

Since early December, the end of my 20-year career teaching at Harvard has been the subject of articles, op-eds, tweets from a billionaire, and even a congressional hearing. I have become a poster child for how the growing campus DEI—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—bureaucracies strangle free speech. My ordeal has been used to illustrate the hypocrisy of the assertions by Harvard’s leaders that they honor the robust exchange of challenging ideas. 

What happened to me, and others, strongly suggests that these assertions aren’t true—at least, if those ideas oppose campus orthodoxy. 

To be a central example of what has gone wrong in higher education feels surreal. If there is any silver lining to losing the career that I found so fulfilling, perhaps it’s that my story will help explain the fear that stalks campuses, a fear that spreads every time someone is punished for their speech.


As Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) said at the hearing, “Carole Hooven, an evolutionary biologist, was forced to resign, because she stated that a person’s sex is biological and binary. . . . and so, President Gay, in what world is a call for violence against Jews protected speech, but a belief that sex is biological and binary isn’t?”

The world Walberg asks about is that of our colleges and universities, particularly elite ones. While the stated aims of DEI may have been laudable, in practice, DEI culture allows the recasting of certain ideas as “dangerous” or “harmful,” which squashes viewpoint diversity and the open, vigorous debate that should be at the heart of a thriving institution of higher education. So while I was not “forced” to resign, Harvard’s culture of intolerance—particularly toward my scientific views on the nature of sex—led me to feel that my only choice was to leave.

At the December congressional hearing, Claudine Gay’s response to Rep. Walberg’s question was a soundbite that severely distorted the truth:



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