Texas university system pauses DEI policies after ‘tremendous attention nationally’

Officials at the University of Texas system, which includes 13 campuses and 244,000 students, announced Wednesday that it would pause any new diversity, equity, and inclusion policies after the controversial initiatives received significant criticism, KVUE-TV reported.

During a board meeting this week, UT Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife stated that the UT system’s DEI policies amassed “tremendous attentional nationally and here in Texas.”

“To be clear, we welcome, celebrate, and strive for diversity on our campuses and our student and our faculty population,” Eltife said.

Earlier this month, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office released a memo warning public university leaders that implementing DEI policies in hiring practices is illegal.

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The memo, sent out by Abbott’s chief of staff, Gardner Pate, stated, “The innocuous-sounding notion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”

Pate argued that DEI initiatives have created the opposite of their intended effect and instead “proactively encourage discrimination in the workplace.”

“When a state agency adjusts its employment practices based on factors other than merit, it not following the law,” Pate explained. “Rebranding this employment discrimination as ‘DEI’ does not make the practice any less illegal.”

The UT system’s announcement to pause DEI initiatives received criticism from some community members and organizations.

Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told NBC News that the DEI programs are drafted by legal professionals and therefore do not violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

“It is a complete misrepresentation to say that DEI programs are illegal and that they violate the Constitution or any statute, because they don’t,” said Bledsoe.

According to Bledsoe, the NAACP and other organizations are preparing civil rights complaints against Abbott.

“We think the action the governor has taken is discriminatory and that it leaves in place programs that benefit others but eliminates programs that have lifted Latinos and African Americans and other minorities,” he added.

According to Eltife, the UT system made the decision to pause new DEI policies because of Abbott’s recent memo.

Eltife claimed that some of the university’s DEI efforts had “strayed from the original intent” and needed to be paused for reevaluation.

“Given the clear legislative focus, we have paused any new DEI policies on our campuses and asked for reports on all current policies across all our campuses. This will give our board a chance to review the various policies systemwide,” Eltife stated.

He noted that the UT system would work with Texas lawmakers to implement any new legislation. Eltife added, “If needed, the board may consider a uniform DEI policy for the entire UT system.”

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