As conservatives have long-attacked universities as liberal bastions, many Republican-led states are now trying to pass legislation banning their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
According to an Associated Press analysis, Republicans “in at least a dozen states have proposed more than 30 bills this year targeting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education.”
Indeed, GOP Texas state representative Carl Tepper believes that diversity initiatives on colleges are “fomenting radical and toxic divisions,” and he’s on a mission to eliminate DEI offices in higher education and the freshman lawmaker has filed two bills with that end goal in mind.
In Missouri, GOP state representative Doug Richey has been targeting DEI at the budgetary level, introducing a slew of amendments that would prohibit the state from funding DEI initiatives in higher education as well as government agencies, asserting that DEI offices champion “racist policies” and “Marxist ideology that is trying to strip away from us the concepts of the nuclear family, of merit, of character and of being judged by what you are capable of.”
“They’re dog whistling that DEI initiatives are something sinister and subversive that people should be afraid of, and that’s not true at all,” said Irene Mulvey, American Association of University Professors President.
These bills are the result of a well-organized concerted attack by conservatives—right-wing advocacy groups and think tanks across the country are drafting proposals offering up their recommendations for language. Some legislative measures
“mirror the model bills nearly exactly,” while “[o]thers copy key definitions or phrases while adapting the concepts to their particular states,” the AP reports.
In Texas, some predict that the GOP’s efforts to stymie DEI might backfire and hinder the state’s progress towards reaching their goal of boosting their state universities’ standings in the national rankings and even reverse the gains made in recent years.
Brian Korgel, the director of UT-Austin’s Energy Institute, stated “If you’re silent on [diversity] or don’t address diversity, you can’t compete for these grants,” adding “There’s an expectation from granting agencies and companies that we’re doing that kind of thing at the university and it’s very important to them.”
University of Missouri students are worried these laws could jeopardize the accreditation for their school.
Vice president of the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors Brian Evans chimed in with, “you cannot have it both ways.”
The main problem for those who ardently support DEI and the biggest hurdle to overcome is that Republicans outnumber Democrats in many state legislatures, “and thus control the budget and the agenda.” One state Republican leader even told his supporters “We’re going to wipe that [DEI] out.”