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The Republican Party’s Latest Culture Wars Target: College Diversity Programs

“We are not going to back down on the wakeful mob. We will expose the fraud they are trying to impose on students across the country,” DeSantis said. who held the round table This month is about what he called a divisive concept. “Florida students get an education, not a political indoctrination.”

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has also joined the fight, issuing a directive last month directing public colleges and universities across the state. Stop Considering DEI Statements in Hiring PracticesRepublican-controlled state legislatures such as Iowa and Missouri are also scrutinizing initiatives on diversity in higher education, with at least 12 states cutting DEI spending and enacting college and university employment guidelines. Laws aimed at rewriting have been put in place.

The DEI program aims to increase the proportion of people from historically discriminated communities, such as women and religious minorities, on campuses and offices and to make them feel accepted when they arrive, in schools and throughout government. has existed for decades.

“For more than 100 years, higher education in the United States has worked to make campuses diverse and inclusive,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, which represents universities across the nation. . “This is not about teaching white students to be ashamed, nor teaching black students to hate white students. This is about making campuses an inclusive community where everyone can thrive. ”

But in the wake of public outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, and after corporate and educational efforts to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, many Republicans are skeptical of the effort. It is a criticism that resonates with conservative voters, who believe it fosters racial exclusion and division. Legislative and administrative action continues as the U.S. Supreme Court also appears poised to ban the use of affirmative action in college admissions later this year.

“It’s good that universities aspire to be places that welcome people from different backgrounds, different experiences and different perspectives,” said Jay Greene, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation Center for Education Policy. “But that very good turned into something bad … Just because we like the words diversity and the words inclusion doesn’t mean the DEI initiative is good.”

According to Greene, GOP legislators are trying to dismantle the DEI in at least three different ways: cracking down on the use of diversity statements used in hiring and promotion; ending the required social curriculum; Eliminate what is called ” – Practitioner Diversity Officer on Campus.But that doesn’t mean conservatives are against diversity, He said.

However, universities and practitioners say these measures can stifle academic freedom and hinder the diversity efforts necessary to ensure a welcoming environment for students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. It claims to have sex.

“We no longer use the acronym DEI because it is confused with something that has been weaponized for the breadth and depth of work going on in the campus community,” said the National Association Diversity Officers and higher education. “I don’t think there is a deep understanding of what this means for campuses.”

Granbury Russell, of a group of diversity practitioners, academics and university researchers, said members were concerned about how the curtailment of these initiatives would affect their work. They question what programming and professional development can be done and what messages these practices will send to future students and job seekers.

Abbott, who has banned the use of DEI statements by state institutions at universities, said: Hearst newspaper interview: “Diversity is what we support.”

However, in a February letter first reported by the U.S. government, texas tribuneAbbott chief of staff Gardner Pate wrote that using the statement during the hiring process violates federal and state employment laws.

Texas A&M University this month Don’t make a diversity statement when hiringUniversity of Houston Chancellor Renu Cathor was quick to say: say her agency To comply with state law, we do not “support or use the DEI statement or factors in hiring or promotion anywhere in the University of Houston system.”

The University of Texas Board of Trustees Paused new policy We promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and seek reports on current policies across campus. While UT is still committed to diversity on campus, his chairman, Kevin Eltife, said: state. ”

The Heritage Foundation’s Green said using diversity statements in hiring, promoting, or evaluating faculty tenure was “necessary in the McCarthy era, when people had to declare they weren’t communists.” It seems to be very similar to the pledge of allegiance.

In Georgia, Republicans also Banning DEI in Employment Practices of Educational Institutions Under Consideration The Missouri Legislature, through a bill called “Ending the Political Litmus Test in Education,” SB 261, Prohibit public universities from soliciting applicants Submit a DEI statement.

South Carolina legislators this month fought over the loss of funding For DEI efforts from state public universities during broader budget negotiations.Iowa Board of Directors Announcement of comprehensive review Suspend all DEI programs and initiatives at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa, and suspend new ones.

Meanwhile, Florida legislators took a wide range of measures What DeSantis wanted ban universities and colleges From spending on programs related to diversity, equity, inclusion, or important racial theories.

The law also requires the board of directors of the state university system to reject primary or secondary research “based on or utilizing pedagogical methodologies” tied to critical racial theories. We are asking schools to remove it. This includes Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Radical Feminist Theory, Radical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Social Justice, or Intersection.

Critical Race Theory is an analytical framework for examining how racism permeated American society and institutions after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. Many conservatives use Critical Race Theory as shorthand for a broader critique of how race and social issues are taught in the K-12 education system.

The bill also undermines or eliminates the role that educational institutions have in helping students. Granbury-Russell said that recognizing student needs based on how they identify and providing academic and social support are important roles that diversity practitioners have long played in higher education. said.

“What does it mean to go back to the days when these needs were ignored, not addressed specifically, and not tailored to the needs of students? You are not welcome here. .”

Andrew Atterbury contributed to this report.

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