The GOP’s latest culture war target: college diversity programs
DeSantis said, “We’re not going to back down into the wake mob, and we’re going to expose the scams they’re trying to push on students across the country,” DeSantis said. who held a round table This month about what he called controversial concepts. “Florida students will receive an education and we will not receive a political ideology.”
Republican Texas Governor. Greg Abbott has also stepped into this fight, issuing a directive last month instructing public universities across the state To stop considering DEI data in their hiring practices. GOP-controlled state rolls in Iowa, Missouri and elsewhere are also examining higher education diversity initiatives, and legislation has been introduced in at least a dozen states aimed at cutting DEI spending and rewriting college and university recruitment guidelines.
DEI programs have existed for decades across school and government with the goal of increasing the proportion of people on campus or in the office from communities that have historically been discriminated against, such as women and religious minorities, and making them feel accepted once they arrive.
“In American higher education, we’ve been making universities diverse and inclusive for more than 100 years,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities in the country. “This is not about teaching white students to feel ashamed or teaching black students to hate white students. It is about making universities inclusive societies where everyone can thrive.”
But after corporate and education efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the wake of public outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, many Republicans believe the initiatives foster exclusion and division based on race, a criticism that has resonated with conservative voters. It’s a flurry of legislative and executive activism that is underway as the US Supreme Court also appears poised to ban the use of affirmative action in college admissions later this year.
“It’s a good thing for universities to aspire to be welcoming to people from many backgrounds, many different experiences, and many different perspectives,” said Jay Greene, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. “But this very good thing has turned out to be not so good. … Simply because we like the word diversity and we like the word inclusion … doesn’t mean DEI initiatives are good.”
According to Green, Republican lawmakers are looking to dismantle DEI in at least three different ways: eliminating the use of diversity phrases used in hiring or promotions, ending required social curricula, and eliminating what they call the “DEI bureaucracy”—the campus practitioners responsible for facilitating diversity efforts. But this does not mean that conservatives are against diversityAnd He said.
However, faculties and practitioners argue that these measures can stifle academic freedom and halt the diversity efforts needed to ensure a welcoming environment for students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds.
said Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers and Higher Education. “I don’t think there is a deep understanding of what this might mean for universities.”
Granberry Russell, whose group is made up of diversity practitioners, scholars and researchers at universities, said its members worry about how the decline of these initiatives will affect their careers. They wonder what programming and professional development they can get, and what message these practices will send to potential students and job applicants.
Abbott, who has banned universities and state agencies from using DEI data, said in a statement Interview with Hearst NewspapersDiversity is something we support.
But in a letter in February he reported it for the first time Texas TribuneGardner Butt, Abbott’s chief of staff, wrote that the use of data during the hiring process violates federal and state employment laws. Public colleges in the state were quick to comply.
Texas A&M University announced this month that it will It no longer has diversity data when hiring. University of Houston Chancellor Reno Khator soon followed suit, saying its foundation “You will not support or use DEI data or factors in recruitment or promotion anywhere in the University of Houston system” to comply with state law.
The University of Texas Board of Regents, too Any new policies are paused which promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion and seeks reporting on current policies across its campuses. While UT continues to strive for diversity on campus, Chairman Kevin Eltieff said “some of DEI’s efforts have deviated from the original intent to enforce requirements and procedures that have raised concerns among our policymakers about those efforts on campuses all over us.” on me.”
The use of diversity data in hiring, promotions or assessing faculty tenure “seems to bear a lot of resemblance to the oath of allegiance that was required during the McCarthy era where people had to declare they weren’t communists,” said Green, of the Heritage Foundation.
In Georgia, Republican representatives are, too Looking to ban DEI in educational employment practices Through a bill called “Ending Political Litmus Tests in Education,” SB 261. The Missouri Legislature is considering a similar measure to Ban public colleges from soliciting applicants to provide DEI data.
This month, lawmakers in South Carolina Dispute cancellation of funding for DEI’s efforts from the state’s public colleges during broader budget negotiations. In Iowa, the Board of Trustees announced that it was conducting a comprehensive review Among all DEI programs and efforts and pausing any new programs at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and Northern Iowa University.
Meanwhile in Florida, lawmakers Scale advanced scale DeSantis is seeking it Universities and colleges will be banned of spending on programs associated with diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory.
The legislation also calls for the state university system board of governors to direct schools to remove any major or minor from study “that is based on pedagogical methodology or otherwise used” associated with critical race theory. This includes critical race theory, critical race studies, critical race studies, radical feminist theory, radical gender theory, gay theory, critical social justice, or intersectionality.
Critical race theory is an analytical framework for examining how systemic racism has been in American society and institutions after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. Many conservatives use critical race theory as a shorthand for a broader critique of how race and social issues are taught in the K-12 education system.
The bill would also weaken or abolish the roles created in institutions to support students. Recognizing students’ needs based on how they identify them and providing academic and social support is a key role longtime diversity practitioners play in higher education, Granberry Russell said.
She said “If we go back to a time when those needs were ignored, not specifically addressed, not tailored to the needs of those students, what does that represent? You are not welcome here.”
Andrew Atterbury contributed to this report.