DEI director alleges being ousted for challenging gender-neutral language: ‘Had never heard these terms’

A California diversity, equity, and inclusion director alleged that she was ousted from her position for refusing to use pronouns and gender-neutral language.

Tabia Lee told Fox News Digital that in the early stages of her career in the ‘80s and ’90s, she promoted the use of pronouns to accommodate transgender people. However, her experience as a DEI director spiraled into a matter of compulsion as opposed to fostering support for people with different viewpoints.

Lee said she would facilitate learning groups to talk about pronouns because “people couldn’t see each other.” 


“This became not something that was being done to support students or to support others, to make welcoming spaces for others. But a mandate that was being made by certain people working from particular ideological perspectives, and it wasn’t being done to help people,” Lee said.

“And actually many of my friends who are trans activists and non-binary people actually said all of this makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m constantly being demanded to state my pronouns,” she continued. 

Lee said that she was “accused of not being gender inclusive for not using the terms Latinx and Philippinx.”

“I shared with folks that in my background of teaching in ten years in largely Spanish-speaking communities, I had never heard that term,” Lee said. “And the people I worked with, the working-class people I worked with, I didn’t originate with them from what I could tell.”


“At the beginning of my career, I was very supportive of multiple things. But I’ve seen how they played out in the lives of students and beyond,” she said.

Lee’s backlash began shortly after she started her position at De Anza Community College in August 2021, when she said her colleagues were accusing her of “Whitesplaining” and supporting White supremacy. 

Lee, an African-American woman, said that when she took initiative to organize routine team meetings, she was accused of “White speaking.”

“What you’re doing right now is you’re White speaking in your White slang, and you’re being transactional, you’re supporting White supremacy,” Lee said.

“And I was like, Whoa,’” she continued. “I had never heard these terms before in all of my years of working 40 years in education now. No one had ever used that term towards me, and I had never heard anyone use that term towards anyone else.”


Lee ended up going through a tumultuous tenure review process to determine whether her contract with De Anza should be renewed. She was told that she wouldn’t be recommended for the DEI Director position for De Anza “two weeks” in advance of the academic institution’s Tenure Review Committee making a decision. Lee filed a grievance to call out the issues in the tenure review process.

The grievance, filed by Lee, noted “irregularities and ideological bias” that occurred during her tenure review process. Lee said that as the review process went on a group of people went to the board of trustees representing the demands of the Latin-X Association and the Asian Pacific American Staff Association, who were calling for her immediate termination. 

Lee said she was also blasted by her colleagues for “disrespecting” a Black Lives Matter founder.

“They said I wasn’t representing the ideas I was hired to represent with fidelity,” she recalled. “They accused me of all kinds of things that anyone who has ever talked to me would know is not me and how I do my work.”

“The committee convenes. And they told me we are not unanimously recommending you,” Lee said. However, the President of De Anza College Dr. Lloyd Holmes overruled the decision in 2022.

When Lee was up for tenure review this year, she received a letter not recommending her once again.

On March 7, the board of trustees decided to go with the recommendations.

Lee said that she does not identify with any political party or as conservative or liberal.

“I encourage people to think critically at all times and to think about what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing, and what people are saying, you know, to them,” Lee said. “And why when it becomes something, where we’re just virtue signaling, are doing things to show that we align with a certain ideology; that’s something that I can’t stand by.”

De Anza College did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

According to Higher Ed, who also covered Lee’s story, a spokesperson for De Anza College emailed that the district “has an obligation to protect privacy in personnel matters.”

“Without commenting on any specific matter, we can share that faculty members have comprehensive due process and appeal rights both under the law and negotiated through their bargaining unit,” the email said.

Lee is now receiving support from the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR). FAIR is a nonpartisan, non-profit, civil-rights organization. 

Lee said that she hasn’t ruled out that pursuing legal action against De Anza Community College.

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