EducationUniversity of Texas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policies ‘Vague and Politicized,’ Report Finds

The report evaluated the University of Texas for its internal policies and practices for instances that fit the DEI mold.
6 hours ago
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A new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) finds the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin “espouse a clear ideological agenda.”

The report analyzes policies concerning curriculum and instruction, DEI commitments as hiring or promotion requirements, and the vast bureaucracy created to police the campus for “microaggressions.”

DEI is a politically and socially progressive concept that aims to change the way institutions operate from the inside, placing emphasis on demographics considered “historically oppressed or disadvantaged.”

McKinsey, a global consulting firm that advises some of the world’s largest companies, defines it as a push “to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.”

But even with basic similarities, the DEI push has often been more concentrated on college campuses than in the corporate world.

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Going back to 2016, the report pins the origin of the university’s DEI movement to a letter from student activists that called for “student organizing and mobilization pushing for comprehensive restructuring of academic policies to address the institutionalized racism that Black students are facing.”

In response, the university launched its “Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan” which promised to allocate funds and infrastructure toward its own DEI program.

Since then, the report states, the university’s DEI apparatus has held faculty and student trainings promoting the themes of “critical race theory” and “implemented curricula laden with the watchwords of identity politics, such as ‘microaggressions,’ ‘systemic racism,’ and ‘intersectionality.’”

Chance Layton, communications director with NAS, told The Texan in an interview that these policies at UT first came on the organization’s radar after being sent internal planning documents by a professor at the University.

That professor is Richard Lowery, an associate professor of Finance at UT, who has been an outspoken critic of DEI at universities. Last year, he sued Texas A&M University over its Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship Fellowship Program, alleging its hiring system discriminates against Asian Americans.

He also was involved in the development of UT’s Liberty Institute, a free market policy think tank funded by the Texas Legislature that he and another co-founder allege has since been hijacked and turned into something it wasn’t supposed to be.

Every couple of years, they change up their strategic plans, add more to it and bring it down at the department level rather than just the pure high level,” Layton said. “Now, it’s every department has to have a set of DEI competencies or officers.”

Layton added, “I think the whole thing is egregious. [H]ere are folks who are primarily invested in political activism and that political activism is controversial. It isn’t the mindset of every faculty member, probably not of every administrator either, but they have to go with the flow for fear of either being canceled or pushed out of these discussions.”

For the 2022-23 Fiscal Year, the vice president of Diversity and Community Engagement has a budget of over one million dollars.

Various DEI-type positions and offices also populate other UT departments and schools.

One such example the NAS report details is the application of DEI principles within the Dell Medical School.

Medical students must demonstrate a host of “core competencies” during their education, including a section on “health equity.”

One such example reads: “Intervene to end or pre-empt practice barriers such as lack of access to language interpretation services to support others experiencing barriers to equitable care including identity-based discrimination, bias and microaggressions.”

The school also published a diagram with an item titled “Integrate health equity into medical education.”

The school’s Associate Dean Jewel Mullen wrote in a university blog post that “racism contributes to health inequity,” and recommended the books “How To Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, among others.

Layton said the DEI push is happening at almost every other university, but added that UT has in large part led the way on the issue. In his view, it largely comes back to the student activists demanding such changes in the institutions of higher education — even in Texas, which among some has the reputation of being the reddest of red states.

In June 2020, student activists handed the university a list of eight demands:

  • Divest from the Austin Police Department and the University of Texas Police Department
  • Implement a test-optional undergraduate and graduate admissions policy
  • Incorporate land acknowledgments in all UT programming
  • Use a multi-faceted approach to incorporate conversations on race and systemic racism in the United States
  • Rename Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall, Littlefield Patio Cafe, Littlefield Fountain, Belo Center for New Media, James Hogg Auditorium, and remove the James Hogg Statue to stop honoring people who perpetuated racism on this campus
  • Discontinue the use of “The Eyes of Texas” at all UT-related events
  • Adopt equitable and inclusive practices in the recruitment, selection, and promotion of UT faculty
  • Institutionalize and fund a campus climate survey.”

The original list is no longer available on the university’s website but was republished by a few different media outlets.

DEI on campuses like UT has become a powerful and, according to Layton, self-fulfilling force.

“This movement creates a feedback loop,” he stated. “If you have a bunch of people looking for racism, and their job is predicated on finding issues of race on campus, they’re going to always find issues of race on campus, because otherwise they don’t have a job.”

That predicates the need for more DEI offices, and you get this massive feedback loop.”

In more detail, the report expounds on that point: “Many critics of DEI in higher education point out the self-perpetuating nature of the enterprise. Any bureaucracy tasked with resolving the university community’s grievances will have a natural incentive to find problems where none exist.”

The Texas Legislature passed a ban on teaching “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) in public schools — the effect of which is still hotly debated. Gov. Greg Abbott has frequently decried the existence of such themes in schools, even mentioning in his inaugural speech that “our schools are for education, not indoctrination. Schools should not push social agendas.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has applied the same criticism to Texas’ higher education institutions; he’s proposed passing legislation this session to phase out tenure for professors deemed to be teaching ideas related to CRT.

A copy of the NAS report can be found below.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.