KVUE-TV reported that officials at the University of Texas, which has 13 campuses and 244,000 students in total, announced Wednesday that they would suspend any new diversity, equity and inclusion policies following significant criticism of the controversial initiatives.
During a meeting of the UT Board of Regents, Kevin Eltife, Chairman of the UT Board of Regents stated that DEI policies in the UT system have received “tremendous attention” both nationally and here at Texas.
Eltife stated, “To be clear, it is important to clarify that we celebrate and work for diversity on our campuses as well as our student population and faculty population.”
The office of Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a memo earlier this month warning public university leaders that the illegal implementation of DEI policies in their hiring practices was unacceptable.
Gardner Pate, Abbott’s chief-of-staff, wrote in the memo that “the innocent-sounding notion Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been manipulated to push for policies that expressly favor certain demographic groups to detriment to others.”
Pate claimed that DEI initiatives have had the opposite effect of what they were intended to do and “proactively encourage discrimination at work.”
Pate stated, “When a state agency adjusts their employment practices based upon factors other than merit it is not following the law.” This employment discrimination can be rebranded as “DEI” but it does not make it any less illegal.
Some community members and organizations were critical of the UT system’s decision to suspend DEI initiatives.
Gary Bledsoe is the president of the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He stated to NBC News that the DEI program was drafted by legal professionals, and thus do not violate federal antidiscrimination laws.
Bledsoe stated, “It is a gross misrepresentation to claim that DEI programs violate the Constitution or any statutes and they are illegal.”
Bledsoe claims that the NAACP, along with other organizations, are currently preparing civil rights complaints against Abbott.
He said, “We believe the governor’s action is discriminatory. It leaves in place programs which benefit others, but it eliminates programs which have lifted Latinos, African Americans, and other minorities.”
Eltife claims that the UT system decided to suspend new DEI policies due to Abbott’s recent memo.
Eltife stated that DEI efforts at the university had “strayed away from the original intent” so they needed to be stopped for reevaluation.
“Given the clear legislative emphasis, we have paused any new DEI policy on our campuses and requested reports on all current policies across all campuses. Eltife explained that this will allow our board to examine the policies system-wide.
Eltife noted that the UT system would collaborate with Texas legislators to implement any new legislation. Eltife said, “If necessary, the board might consider a uniform DEI strategy for the entire UT systems.”