The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, managed by the University of California but federally funded, has suspended its employees’ diversity training program by order of the Trump administration, which recently called such programs “divisive, anti-American propaganda,” The Chronicle has learned.
With more than 1,400 scientists and engineers, and thousands more visiting scholars and students from around the world, the lab that overlooks San Francisco Bay is funded largely by the U.S. Department of Energy and conducts unclassified research across several scientific disciplines. It is known as Berkeley Lab.
Lawrence Livermore National Lab, a national security research institute in Livermore funded mainly by the Department of Energy and run in part by UC, has also suspended much of its diversity training, The Chronicle has learned.
Both laboratories declined to comment. They referred The Chronicle to the Department of Energy, which did not respond to several requests for comment and for the department’s directive.
The federal crackdown comes as President Trump’s re-election campaign increasingly focuses on disparaging racial justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, playing to white fears and grievances, and stoking the culture wars. Among the most recent examples, this summer the president called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate,” and, in rolling back anti-segregation provisions of the Fair Housing Act, he assured suburbanites that “crime will go down.”
A widely circulated memo from the U.S. Office of Managment and Budget, issued Sept. 4 to the heads of federal agencies and executive departments, including the Department of Energy, makes clear that the president’s intent is to eliminate all anti-racism instruction funded by federal dollars, and to cancel any contracts or other federal business in which multicultural acceptance plays a part.
“It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” wrote Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Citing unidentified news reports, Vought asserted in the memo that the purpose of training employees on matters of diversity is to indoctrinate them with the idea that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” and that it is racist to believe that “America is the land of opportunity.”
“The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” Vought wrote, adding that additional guidance is forthcoming for agencies and departments to cancel any federal contracts that touch on such things, and to look for legal rationales supporting such actions.
The federal order drew criticism from at least one faculty member, who called it “unethical and harmful,” and unease from UC Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who serves on the regents’ national laboratories committee.
“I continue to be concerned about how the Trump administration characterizes such important training as nonessential,” Oakley said. “Recent social unrest across the country highlights the importance of a citizenry and workforce that is knowledgeable about structural discrimination and ways that we can break down barriers to opportunity for…