Controversy erupts as University of Texas System temporarily suspends new diversity, equity, and inclusion policies

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A few weeks ago, Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to stop taking diversity into account when making hiring decisions. The hiring procedures at Texas A&M University have also recently been modified.
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The board of regents for the University of Texas System announced on Wednesday that it has halted the implementation of any new policies that support diversity, equity, and inclusion at its 13 university and health campuses and has requested information from all campus administrators on their current DEI practices.

While the UT System works to encourage diversity among its faculty and students, board chair Kevin Eltife stated that “certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers around those efforts on campuses across our entire state.”

Eltife did not specify which DEI activities he thought went too far in his remarks, which were first published by the Austin American-Statesman. Further inquiries received no quick response from the UT System.

Gov. Greg Abbott forbade public universities and state agencies from employing on grounds "other than merit" in a letter he wrote earlier this month, warning them that DEI hiring methods broke both federal and state employment rules. According to legal experts, the governor's administration mischaracterized the legal procedures firms utilize to take into account diversity in employment.

Recent criticism of Texas Tech University's biology department for its DEI employment procedures came from a conservative advocacy group.

The so-called diversity statements, which ask job candidates to write about their experience working with diverse student populations and share how they plan to help students from all backgrounds be successful, have drawn criticism from conservative lawmakers across the nation and from university departments.

Texas A&M University in College Station recently declared that it altered its employment practices in response to the governor's message. The vice president of faculty affairs reportedly instructed college deans late last week to only examine a cover letter, CV, personal statement, and professional references for hiring, according to an email acquired by The Texas Tribune.

“There was not a university-wide requirement for applicants to submit a diversity statement, however, some units did require such statements. There was not consistency in the approach or common understanding of how diversity statements were used in the decision-making process,” said Susan Ballabina, Texas A&M’s chief external affairs officer and senior vice president for academic and strategic collaborations, in a statement Tuesday. “To ensure adherence to the guidance highlighted in the letter from the Office of the Governor on February 6, 2023, the Texas A&M administration made a decision, after consultation with the System Office of General Counsel, to standardize faculty application requirements.”

Diversity, equality, and inclusion policies have been adopted by workplaces across the nation to promote cultures that prioritize equitable treatment of groups who have traditionally faced discrimination.

Universities have adopted DEI policies over time in an effort to address historical prejudices after realizing that many groups, including people of color, women, students with disabilities, and veterans, have not historically benefited from them.

To oversee these initiatives and ensure that their campuses were locations where historically underrepresented groups could succeed and graduate, they established offices and hired people.

Conservative politicians and activists have recently focused on diversity, equality, and inclusion policies, accusing initiatives to support disadvantaged groups of being the result of left-wing ideology intended to support liberal views on systemic racism and discrimination.

Eltife stated on Wednesday that board members welcome elected officials investigating DEI rules throughout Texas and suggested that they might take into consideration a unified DEI policy for the entire system.

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