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The Cisco Delusion of Diversity

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

June 23, 2011 Mr. John Chambers Office of the President Cisco Systems, Inc. Mail Stop SJC10/5/4 300 East Tasman Drive San Jose, California 95134

Dear Mr. Chambers:

I am deeply disappointed that I have not yet heard back from you in reference to your company’s firing of Dr. Frank Turek. I know that many of my readers are interested in hearing a direct response from you. I also regret that I must write to you with additional concerns about possible systematic religious and political discrimination at Cisco.

Those additional concerns stem from statements made by Ms. Marilyn Nagel, your Senior Director of Inclusion and Diversity. Dr. Turek spoke with her recently by phone regarding his firing—a firing that was not based on his work but on his religious and political beliefs.

To her credit, Ms. Nagel apologized for the firing of Dr. Turek. Dr. Turek was told that he could apply for another job with Cisco, but that there are “no guarantees.” (Translation: he can always buy a lottery ticket). Of course, there are no guarantees winning the lottery. And I think Frank’s chances of winning the lottery are better than getting hired back by a company that is trying to cover its backside while appeasing the Gaystapo.

But to her greater discredit, Ms. Nagel not only refused to do anything to address the cultural factors that contributed to the firing, she refused to even consider the possibility that the Cisco culture was decidedly tilted toward intolerant political correctness—the soil from which the firing sprouted.

Ms. Nagel was made aware of the fact that I was present on that call to make a record of what I heard over the speakerphone. Below I have reprinted portions of that conversation. The portions in italics are the unaltered words of Ms. Nagel. My un-italicized comments are interspersed between hers.

Our culture is very welcoming of all points of view. We don’t have any particular political perspective on the issues of same-sex marriage or any of the other issues.

I was encouraged to hear this from Ms. Nagel. But if that’s true, as Dr. Turek asked, “How could a Cisco leader and a seasoned HR professional possibly think its right to fire someone for his conservative political or religious beliefs on same sex marriage unless the Cisco culture has become drastically tilted toward political correctness?”

Ms. Nagel refused to answer the question directly and denied the culture was tilted. Instead, she offered an endless stream of platitudes about how inclusive and diverse the Cisco culture is.

Because we believe that it has to be an employee environment where everyone is welcome, we do discourage discussions around strongly held political beliefs or religious beliefs in group settings within Cisco other than certain forums, and so we’re very sensitive about protecting our culture of acceptance of everyone, we don’t want anyone to ever feel excluded and that means all opinions, and I really believe that’s what inclusion is all about.

She also said:

There is a reason that we don’t have political discussions on our campus, and that is because we find that they can be divisive and so we choose to allow people to have those conversations informally or off campus.

So, according to Ms. Nagel, discussions of important political or religious beliefs are so divisive that they must be confined to certain forums at Cisco. I am sure that you would agree that the word “forum” suggests equal representation of different perspectives, especially since Ms. Nagel asserts that “all opinions” are welcome and that “We don’t have any particular political perspective on the issues of same-sex marriage or any of the other issues.

Then how does Ms. Nagel explain this one-sided Cisco-sponsored “forum” in favor of same-sex marriage, led by a Cisco Vice President just last week on the Cisco campus?

This forum raises the question of how you can “make progress on issues that are divisive and controversial.” What does Cisco mean by “progress?” Does it mean firing people like Dr. Turek in order to advance the cause of same sex-marriage? Is the firing of those opposed to same-sex marriage deemed an acceptable way to reduce divisiveness within Cisco? I’m not trying to be divisive. I’m just asking.

Forgive me for raising another potentially divisive issue, but I could not help but notice that the Honorable Boris Dittrich was one the panelists at this one-sided “forum.” He helped lead the Netherlands to be the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. He did this as a Member of Parliament. In other words, he is a gay activist and politician.

I’ll let this sink in before I write back to discuss Cisco’s further commitment to advancing the cause of same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the evidence included in my next letter will also show Cisco’s lack of commitment to the cause of religious and political diversity.

...To be continued.

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