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Commentary: What to do when diversity, equity, and inclusion go away
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Commentary: What to do when diversity, equity, and inclusion go away

Progressive faculty members in Texas are threatening to make the Lone Star State lonelier. A survey by the American Association of University Professors — a reliable barometer of leftist views on campus — asked 1,900 Texas faculty members about their views of the campus reforms already enacted by the state legislature or under consideration. Chief among these is Senate Bill 17, which was a signed into law on June 14 and goes into effect in January. The law bans diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the state’s public universities.

Unsurprisingly, some faculty members dislike that prospect. DEI has been the lifeblood of racial politics in higher education for almost a decade, and SB 17 promises to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart. So what are die-hard Texas DEI fans planning to do?

According to the AAUP survey, 57% of the Texas faculty say they want to leave the state. Almost a quarter are already looking for positions elsewhere. And 63.3% of the respondents are calling on faculty in other states to shun college and university positions in Texas.

Several licks of salt may be needed to swallow this margarita. After all, the 1,900 faculty who responded may not represent the opinions of Texas faculty as a whole. The University of Texas at Austin alone has more than 3,000 faculty members, and there are more than 54,000 faculty statewide. Respondents to an AAUP survey likely represent the woker side of the spectrum.

Be that as it may, it must be glad tidings to the good people of Texas that so many of these educational well-poisoners are eager to pack their bags. When I talked to people who supported SB 17 before it passed, their focus was on curtailing DEI indoctrination. I never heard anyone suggest that the bill would actually drive the rascals out of state.

To be sure, they haven’t left yet, at least in any significant numbers. I fear that many of the I’m-going-to-leave cohort will change their minds. American higher education right now faces declining enrollments and major budgetary shortfalls. Small colleges are closing, and some major universities are eliminating programs and faculty positions. Moreover, the high tide of DEI administrative jobs, largely funded by COVID-19 bailout money, has crested, and the market is now flooded with former diversity deans and the like.

So where will the SB 17 refuseniks go? Here in New York City, we are up to our penthouses and luxury hotels with undocumented immigrants who are enjoying our “sanctuary.” Our local universities might well feel deep sympathy with faculty refugees from Texas A&M, Sam Houston State, and UT Dallas, but where could we put them?

Even before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard and the University of North Carolina, which struck down racial preferences in college admissions, five states had passed laws prohibiting DEI funding: Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, while 18 others had legislation pending to do the same. Details vary from state to state, but a faculty member intending to flee Texas to find a job at a university friendlier to DEI programs faces a limited number of options.

Even some of the states that have not banned DEI programs outright have restricted some of the ways DEI is used. In May, for example, Idaho banned diversity statements in hiring at public colleges. What is a Texas DEI-hard to do when applying for a job at Boise State? How do you convey your support for nouveau racism if you can’t come right out and say that it is dear to your heart?

All this makes me think that Texas’ public universities should establish a program to assist those who really want to go. The Go, Exit, Take Off, Untrouble Texas program could subsidize the rental of U-Haul trucks and assist with résumé writing.

An alternative, of course, would be for disenchanted academics to consider changing careers. Opportunities in fields in which DEI commitments are still recognized as professional assets appear abundant. America’s armed services, for example, are all in on DEI training, as is the Border Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service. Finding the right position in which to preach the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a priority right up there with persuading Americans that our country is inherently oppressive.

It is not that Texas is in a hurry to see you leave. It is just that your talents could be so much better used elsewhere. Think of the hundreds of miles of desert that currently have no diversity trainers at all.

Peter Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars.

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