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Universities Rebrand Their ‘Diversity And Inclusion’ Departments As Red State Laws Kick Into Effect

  • Several states have banned or are considering banning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and statements, but some colleges and universities are resisting.
  • Florida and Texas legislators said the DEI programs discriminated on the basis of race or sex, and the law explicitly outlaws that type of discrimination. 
  • “Our office will definitely be engaged with any sort of signals or indication that we see of any public universities not following the spirit and intent of the law,” Republican Texas state Sen. Brandon Creighton told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Multiple states have implemented laws that ban public funding for colleges and universities that use diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, but some schools are trying to rebrand their efforts.

Texas and Florida banned the usage of DEI in public schools and universities, and multiple other Republican state legislatures have proposed such bans on programs that use public funds, saying that the programs discriminate on the basis of race and sex. While the University of Houston (UH) has opened a new center with a different name, the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is keeping its DEI staff at the university — leading some state lawmakers to question if the schools’ changes will comport to the spirit of the law.

“Our office will definitely be engaged with any sort of signals or indication that we see of any public universities not following the spirit and intent of the law,” Republican Texas state Sen. Brandon Creighton, author of the Texas bill that banned the usage of public funds for DEI, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Some universities in Texas previously required professors to sign so-called “diversity statements,” which amounted to a commitment to the tenets of DEI. “Essentially, many of our universities requiring those loyalty oaths had a neon sign above their doors saying, ‘if you don’t agree with us politically and you won’t sign this oath, you need not apply here,’” Creighton said.

UTD will not lay off any workers from its DEI office, according to the Dallas Morning News. “We know what the law of the land is today, but the reality is, we have a diverse state,” Democratic Texas state Sen. Royce West said in a meeting discussing the DEI ban.

West said the university can find a way to use race-neutral criteria to “make certain that students of color get the opportunity that they deserve,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

UH posted signage saying that its Center for Diversity and Inclusion and LGBTQ Resource Center would be closing, but the university later said it was reversing course on that decision. The university has since announced a new center called the “Center for Student Advocacy and Community,” according to a Wednesday email given to the DCNF.

“This center will make available wide-ranging advocacy, a support network for both undergraduate and graduate students, comprehensive basic needs services and resources, and facilitate a variety of events and programs to foster student success, achievement, and community building,” the email reads.

“Governor Abbott expects Texas colleges and universities to fully comply with the law,” Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s press secretary, Andrew Mahaleris, told the DCNF.

The universities have until January 2024 to alter their programs to fit within the law, and the changes are an acknowledgement that something needs to be fixed, Creighton told the DCNF.

“Some universities and woke professors have been using DEI to advance political agendas and exclude conservative viewpoints on college campuses. These efforts adversely affect our students, limit exposure to diverse thought, and destroy our education system. Governor Abbott signed SB 17 into law earlier this year that prohibits DEI practices at public colleges and universities to give people the opportunity to advance based on talent and merit and experience all viewpoints,” Mahaleris told the DCNF.

Universities in other states are making changes, too.

The University of South Carolina (USC) is rebranding its DEI office in light of South Carolina legislators requesting documentation in February on what public funds are going to DEI efforts in the public schools and universities. USC renamed its vice president of DEI office the Vice President of Access, Civil Rights and Community Engagement office.

The “division will now align ongoing efforts to ensure access and opportunity to members of the campus community, compliance with federal civil rights and Title IX requirements,” according to a press release reported by the Columbia Post and Courier.

New College of Florida’s board of trustees ordered the college to abolish its DEI offices on March 1. Students and faculty members at New College sued the state on Aug. 14 to halt the enforcement of the state’s DEI ban.

“I think at the end of the day, we’ll see a return to hiring faculty based on merit and competence,” Creighton said.

USC and UTD did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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