Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Universities in Texas Receive Backlash for Putting Diversity Initiatives on Hold

Latino and Black leaders in Texas rebuff claims that diversity and inclusion programs are illegal because the University of Texas System put a hold on such programs.

Chairman of the system’s board of regents, Kevin Eltife, announced he was delaying new policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and launching a review of all of them. The announcement held no vote or discussion and was reported first by the Austin American-Stateman.

Eltife, a former state senator appointed to the board by Abbott, said that within UT campuses, “some DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that rightfully has raised concerns of our policymakers.”

Eltife’s stop on new policies follows a declaration by Abbott’s chief of staff in a letter to state agencies saying that DEI “has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”

The announcement from a higher education system comprising over 244,000 students is drawing pushback from Black and Latino lawmakers and organizations.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, “It is a complete misrepresentation to say that DEI programs are illegal and that they violate the Constitution or any statute because they don’t.”

Bledsoe said NAACP and others are preparing civil rights complaints “because we think the action the governor has taken is discriminatory and that it leaves in place programs that benefit others but eliminates programs that have lifted Latinos and African Americans and other minorities.”

Universities in Texas have struggled with hiring diverse faculty and reaching enrollment numbers that reflect the population, especially since Hispanics are estimated to be the largest population group in these universities.

State Rep, Christina Morales, a Democrat from Houston and vice-chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, noted that 18% of Latinos have advanced degrees, compared with 39% of white Texans.

“The effort has to be made that more people are included,” Morales said. “It’s important that we consciously choose people with a diverse background, and we choose to include other folks when we are hiring and admitting them to the university.”

She says she’s incredibly disappointed with the UT System decision and Texas A&M University for changing its hiring policies.

The governor’s actions on DEI hiring come amid a Republican-led campaign targeting the teaching of racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ studies in state schools and universities. It also comes at a time when potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates have begun competing for support from the party’s right-wing base. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also is targeting DEI in his state.

NBC News