Haltigan v. Drake

From May 2023 to January 2024
University of California, Santa Cruz (Public college or university)
Santa Cruz, CA

Identity of Speakers

  • John Haltigan

    Psychology Professor

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Right wing
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


A psychology professor who hoped to get a job at UC Santa Cruz sued the campus and the University of California in federal court over a requirement that faculty applicants submit a statement vowing to support “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

In his lawsuit, John Haltigan likens the requirement to a “modern-day loyalty oath” of the kind discredited after the McCarthy era in the 1950s, when citizens who wouldn’t sign were sometimes condemned as communist subversives by the U.S. government.

“What was true for the anti-communist loyalty oaths of the Cold War era is still true today: The First Amendment does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom,” says Haltigan’s suit. It calls the UC requirement “an unconstitutional form of compelled speech.”

A spokesperson for UC President Michael Drake, a named defendant, declined to comment on the suit because the university has not yet been served.

As for whether the 10 UC campuses all require faculty applicants to submit a DEI statement, the spokesperson said he would have to check.

Some campuses, including UC Santa Cruz, post such requirements on their website. The Santa Cruz document describes a five-point rubric against which the campus evaluates the DEI statements of candidates competing for a position.

Top points are awarded to those who show “clear and detailed ideas … for advancing equity and inclusion at UCSC,” according to the site, while vague statements about “treating all students the same regardless of background, etc.” earn poor scores.

UC Santa Cruz officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Haltigan’s lawsuit is among dozens of lawsuits targeting DEI policies around the country since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, usually filed by conservative plaintiffs challenging corporations that want to diversify their workforce, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg Law.

Haltigan is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right-leaning nonprofit that typically sues public entities on behalf of people who say their policies interfere with individual liberty.

In this case, Haltigan is seeking to topple all DEI statement requirements within UC, a public university, on grounds that they violate his First Amendment rights. To qualify for the job, he would have to “express ideas with which he disagrees.”

The suit argues that UC’s requirement also violates the First Amendment because its purpose is to “penalize certain viewpoints and drive those viewpoints from the marketplace of academic hiring.”

In addition to injunctions prohibiting UC from enforcing the DEI statements in hiring, the lawsuit asks the university to acknowledge that doing so violates the First Amendment.

Haltigan lives in Pennsylvania and holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Miami.

Last July, he was an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s psychiatry department when he saw that UC Santa Cruz was looking for someone in his field to fill a tenure-track position.

According to the lawsuit, the job announcement said that applicants had to submit a DEI statement, and urged candidates to check out the scoring rubric.

Haltigan, however, believes in “colorblind inclusivity” and “merit-based promotion,” which he argues is anathema to what the DEI statements demand.

If Haltigan had applied, “he would be compelled to alter his behavior … or recant his views to conform to the dictates of the university administration,” his suit says.

In January, 2024, the US District Court Judge dismissed the lawsuit because the plaintiff did not adequately show how his claim had standing.