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From: Adrienne Lu
Subject: Race on Campus: Diversity Efforts Under Fire
Welcome to Race on Campus. The effort to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public colleges is gaining momentum, with activists and conservative politicians saying the offices inhibit academic freedom and are discriminatory. Our Adrienne Lu has the latest. If you have ideas, comments, or questions about this newsletter, write to me:
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Welcome to Race on Campus. The effort to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public colleges is gaining momentum, with activists and conservative politicians saying the offices inhibit academic freedom and are discriminatory. Our Adrienne Lu has the latest. If you have ideas, comments, or questions about this newsletter, write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New Color-Blindness
The diversity bureaucracy in higher education is under attack. In recent months, conservative critics have taken aim at the infrastructure built to promote and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, arguing that it is an attempt to indoctrinate students, a waste of tax dollars, and in some cases, illegal.
Current legislative efforts expand on campaigns in numerous states to ban the teaching of concepts such as critical race theory. If successful, entire administrative units could be forced to close their doors. And beyond legislation, critics of DEI are using other means to, as one put it, “gum up the works.”
In January, the Manhattan and Goldwater Institutes, both conservative think tanks, unveiled model state legislation targeting public colleges. The legislation would prevent them from employing diversity, equity, and inclusion officers; end mandatory diversity training; prohibit colleges from requiring diversity statements; and ban preferences for admission or employment based on characteristics such as race or sex.
Calling DEI offices “the nerve center of woke ideology on university campuses,” the authors write that “DEI officers form a kind of revolutionary vanguard on campuses; their livelihood can only be justified by discovering — i.e., manufacturing — new inequities to be remedied.”
In explaining the rationale for prohibiting mandatory diversity training, the authors write: “Typical DEI training includes unscientific claims about so-called microaggressions and implicit bias, and it rejects the basic American premise that everyone should be treated equally. DEI has morphed into a state-subsidized ideology of grievance, racial division, and anti-Americanism.” (A previous Race on Campus newsletter discussed why diversity training often doesn’t work well and suggested some more effective strategies.)
There is “no reliable evidence” that large DEI offices support minority students’ sense of belonging, the authors argue. Instead, “the standard DEI narrative aims to persuade minority students that they are oppressed and unwelcome.”
In Texas, a bill introduced in December would prohibit the funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of offices that support the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It would require public colleges to “demonstrate a commitment to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” and prohibit “the endorsement or dissuasion of, or interference with, any lifestyle, race, sex, religion, or culture.”
Carl H. Tepper, the Republican lawmaker who introduced the bill in the Texas House of Representatives, said in a written statement, “While I strongly believe that public universities should allow a wide variety of debates and opinions, public universities should not use taxpayer dollars to inculcate students with certain politically divisive values.”
Florida is perhaps leading the way among conservative states in the battle. There, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and possible presidential candidate for 2024, has attacked with gusto what he views as higher education’s “woke” bias, with diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts frequently falling in the crosshairs.
In December, DeSantis asked the state’s public colleges for an accounting of their spending on diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory. The colleges reported that spending on a wide variety of efforts, including activities to increase the diversity of faculty or students, totaled less than 1 percent of their budgets. DeSantis did not explain how the information would be used, leading some faculty members to view the request as a way to chill diversity efforts.
Not long after DeSantis’s request, the presidents of 28 state and community colleges issued a statement that they would eliminate any academic requirement or program “that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”
Last year, DeSantis also signed into law the so-called Stop WOKE Act, which limits what professors at public colleges can teach about sex, race, and racism. The law has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.
Oklahoma has followed Florida’s lead in requesting a breakdown of diversity spending at public colleges. The state’s superintendent of public instruction requested details on “every dollar” spent on diversity, equity, and inclusion over the past 10 years by the 25 public colleges and universities in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. Oklahoma has also prohibited public colleges from requiring students, faculty and staff at public colleges to undergo diversity training that “presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex.”
The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors is considering a policy that could effectively ban the use of diversity statements, which discuss a job applicant’s commitments to and experiences with diverse student populations. While increasingly common in higher education, diversity statements are controversial. Supporters say they help to signal and advance colleges’ commitments to diversity, while critics argue they could be used as a political litmus test and thus threaten academic freedom.
Legislators aren’t the only ones attacking the higher-education diversity infrastructure. One faculty member, Adam Ellwanger at the University of Houston-Downtown, has urged conservative students and faculty members to file complaints with DEI offices for speech that disparages their identity characteristics — including white, Christian, and heterosexual. Mark J. Perry, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan at Flint, has since 2016 gone after what he sees as reverse race- and gender-discrimination by colleges. He has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against, by his count, more than 700 colleges. DEI offices and the department’s Office for Civil Rights are required to take such complaints seriously.
Advocates of diversity efforts say they are girding for a long-term battle. If higher education is going to fulfill its mission to serve all students, said Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, DEI offices “are essential.”
- The U.S. Administration for Native Americans awarded about $20 million in Native Language Preservation and Maintenance Emergency grants to more than 200 tribes and Indigenous community organizations. A growing number of colleges are now working with tribal nations to help them teach their Native languages. (The Chronicle)
- The children of many East Asian and Latino/a immigrants are expected to support their parents — by providing care and financial support— in their older years. That gives these communities specific financial challenges that their peers don’t face. (The New York Times)
- This story isn’t immediately higher-education related, but still important for larger conversations about race. On Friday, the Memphis Police Department released video footage of what happened between officers and Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after he was beaten by the police. The video’s release prompted protests across the country. (The Washington Post)