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A recent Blaze News report revealed that an order from the Republican governor, a directive from the university system's chancellor, and the guarantee of a prohibitive law going into effect in January were not altogether enough to dissuade Texas A&M University from asking potential hires to signal their ideological conformity to and support of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The unwanted attention resulting from that same report appears to have had an impact, however, demonstrating the importance of vigilance and sustained pressure.
Last week, Dr. Scott Yenor, a political science professor at Boise State University, highlighted various apparent examples of departments hiring "based on ideological conformity and racial preferences" at Texas A&M.
While many ostensibly DEI-coded postings remain, following Yenor's report, one of the most brazen examples had been noticeably altered.
What's the background?
Gov. Greg Abbott notified Texas public institutions in February to stop using DEI hiring practices.
"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," said the memo, reportedly penned by the governor's chief of staff, Gardner Pate.
Weeks later, the University of Texas System's Board of Regents indicated it had put a pause on all new DEI policies.
Chairman Kevin Eltife, an Abbott appointee, suggested that while the system seeks to promote diversity, "certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers around those efforts on campuses across our entire state."
On March 2, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp directed university leaders to stop asking job applicants about their commitment to DEI in their applications, reported the Texas Tribune.
"No university or agency in the A&M System will admit any student, nor hire any employee based on any factor other than merit," wrote Sharp.
Texas lawmakers went a step farther to ensure there was no outstanding confusion concerning the Lone Star State's prohibition on race- and identity-based hiring practices.
Senate Bill 17, ratified by Gov. Greg Abbott and effective Jan. 1, 2024, prohibits Texas' public universities from establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion office; using DEI criteria in their hiring practices; and requiring employees or prospective employees to attend DEI trainings.
The law further requires that governing boards ensure that each institutional unit does not, among other things, "compel, require, induce, or solicit any person to provide a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement or give preferential consideration to any person based on the provision of a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement."
Public higher-education institutions will be audited every four years to determine if taxpayer funder were squandered on DEI-related schemes. Offending institutions that fail to correct the issue inside 180 days can become inelgible for formula funding increases and institutional enhancements, reported the Austin American-Statesman.
Eltife, an Abbott appointee, said last week, "We really want to make something crystal clear, whether you like the policy or whether you like this law or any other law, the University of Texas System is going to respect the process, and we're going to respect the law.
"We're not going to look for loopholes. We're not going to look for workarounds. We're going to implement the law as passed," said Eltife.
The DEI scheme that won't die
Dr. Yenor noted in his initial report that the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M was hiring four tenure-track assistant professors, asking candidates in a posting — archived on Nov. 15 — to provide a cover letter "referencing research agenda, past or planned contributions to advancing diversity, and teaching interests."
The day after Yenor's report, the posting was changed such that it now omits the "past or planned contributions to advancing diversity" language.
Blaze News reached out to Texas A&M's political science department but did not hear back by deadline.
Yenor told Blaze News that the sudden about-face reveals that "there was a recognition that the job posting explicitly violated Gov. Abbott's order abolishing DEI statements in use for faculty hiring or university hiring or state hiring. It was a direct affront to Gov. Abbot's executive order."
The change "brought them into compliance with the executive order," at least in this instance, said Yenor.
Anna Katherine Miller, education policy director at the Center for American Education, told Blaze News, "Texas A&M's recent removal of diversity in their job posting after being called out for defying the governor's directive shows that policies banning DEI will not be easy to enforce on college campuses. Unwilling university presidents, aided and abetted by campus DEI bureaucracies, will do their best to evade these orders."
Yenor similarly suggested that prohibitions on DEI hiring practices "are pretty easy to evade. Many of the universities have already suggested that they're going to do it. My initial article tried to show some of the ways in which they were evading it, but the Bush School advertisement didn't even try to evade it. It just violated it."
Yenor noted that one ostensible loophole is that rather than having applicants sign a DEI pledge, "they're willing to make sure to evaluate that job application in light of the fact that they've done the work of diversity over the course of their lives."
"In other cases, the university says, 'This university stands for diversity and inclusion,' in one part of the ad, then it asks the potential job applicants whether or not they would like to respond to what the university stands for. That's another way of ... providing an opportunity to candidates to volunteer their adherence to the ideology," continued Yenor. "I think the letter of the law may be complied with, but the spirit of the law is being violated in most of these jobs."
Sherry Sylvester, distinguished senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told Blaze News that it's become clear since the passage of SB 17 that "many in the university are committed to find workaround loopholes and ways to not comply. They have said this directly and indirectly. They've talked about the possibility of changing DEI to some other name."
Despite a name change and possible facelift, Sylvester made clear what DEI amounts to: division and dehumanization
"The problem with DEI is that it is divisive. Its worldview is that America's bad, Texas is bad, and the world is made up of either oppressors or the oppressed," said Sylvester. "Your identity is based on immutable characteristics, gender and race, and not on your personal achievements; what you can do; what you've learned how to do; what you have overcome. We all don't start in the same place — nobody thinks that we do — but people achieve from wherever they start."
"[DEI] is anti-individual. ... That's one thing that's antithetical to our Texas identity. We believe every individual is unique, every individual finds their path, and our job is to make sure that there's nothing that stands in the way of any individual," continued Sylvester. "DEI does not think in terms of the integrity of the individual. It thinks in terms of group identity, and people need to understand that."
Seeing DEI off
Extra to fostering an expectation among students and potential hires that they must be treated as individuals rather than on the basis of immutable characteristics and/or group membership, Sylvester suggested that there are other ways to hold the university accountable.
"The legislation has several components for accountability. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is one group that is available to monitor ... and report lack of compliance. The state auditor will also be monitoring the universities. Every university will have to come in and testify before the higher education committees in the [state] House and the Senate affirming that they are in compliance," said Sylvester.
However, even with such checks and balances, Sylvester underscored that good leadership remains a critical part of the solution.
"Texas public universities should make sure that all the leadership they hire are fully committed to ridding the academic institution of DEI," said Sylvester. "No one should be hired for a leadership position in a Texas public university who supports DEI or has a wishy-washy position on DEI. Texans don't support DEI. The legislature has made it clear that we do not want DEI as part of the infrastructure in our institutions. So no leader should be hired unless they are fully committed to making sure that their academic institution is free of DEI."
Yenor emphasized that the "only way to really halt the DEI revolution on campus is through university leadership that is willing to halt it and to put the money and prestige of the office of the university behind the non-DEI vision of education."
The trouble, suggested the Boise professor, is that General Mark Welsh, Texas A&M's interim president, "has signaled that he is interested in continuing the diversity, equity, inclusion revolution at Texas A&M, furthering it and deepening it. ... He's going to do whatever it takes, it looks like, to comply whatever letter of of the law is out there but to violate its spirit."
Gen. Welsh has long been a supporter of DEI, at least rhetorically. He recently told the Washington Post he would not have supported SB 17, stating, "I don't believe it's beneficial to where we are trying to go long-range as a society."
Yenor indicated that the public has roughly 30 days to comment on whether Texas A&M's Board of Regents should officially appoint Welsh as university president, noting that "I think this is one of the only chances that there will be to reverse some of these nefarious actions at Texas A&M."
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.