Which college, university leaders are speaking out against anti-DEI efforts?

"Across this campus, staff and faculty work to support students of color and from underrepresented backgrounds," University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto wrote. "We should value and support that work, not diminish it."

The University of Florida has officially disbanded all activity related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a result, 13 full-time faculty members have been fired, the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer has been relinquished and all outside vendor contracts related to the initiative have been nullified. The $5 million allocated to DEI programming has been transitioned into a faculty recruitment fund, according to a memo.

While the university has received harsh criticism for its decision, it’s simply following orders; last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a state bill into law that prohibited any expenditures on such programs across all state colleges and universities. In the memo, three senior UF officials underscored the institution’s commitment to “universal human dignity” in light of the demand to disband DEI.

“As we educate students by thoughtfully engaging a wide range of ideas and views, we will continue to foster a community of trust and respect for every member of the Gator Nation,” it read. “The University of Florida is an elite institution because of our incredible faculty who are committed to teaching, discovering, and serving.”

As colleges and universities across Florida and Texas are forced to shudder their DEI offices, higher education leaders in other states whose lawmakers threaten to propose similar legislation are voicing their opposition—before it becomes too late. To date this year, 20 states have proposed about 50 bills that would severely limit the scope and utility of efforts related to DEI on campus, according to an AP News analysis.

Lawmakers staunchly opposed to DEI also frequently attack faculty tenure due to the professors who may champion it. Florida faculty must now undergo a tenure review every five years, and Texas tried to end the practice of tenure entirely, though that effort failed.

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Indiana tenure clash

Senate Bill 202 aims to replicate Florida’s efforts by requiring tenured faculty to undergo a review every five years. An institution with increased political oversight would punish the professors in question if they fail to exhibit a healthy level of “viewpoint diversity” in their classroom. SB 202 now sits on the governor’s desk, AP News reports.

Indiana University leaders aren’t thrilled about the bill and have voiced their concerns. President Pamela Whitten warned that the university would lose its competitive edge in attracting talented faculty if it were to become law, according to AP. A week late, Provost Rahul Shrivastav doubled down.

“I share the President’s belief that SB 202 risks unintended consequences that threaten not just the stature of Indiana University, but the economic and cultural vitality of the state,” he wrote in a school statement.

Kentucky presidents speak out

In February, the Kentucky Senate Committee advanced a bill that would curtail DEI efforts across its state institutions. Proponents of SB 6 believe it promulgates “divisive concepts.” As a result, schools would be barred from teaching concepts that endorse or suggest, or are imbued with themes that endorse or suggest, that the country, state or its individuals are tied in any way to racism, sexism, oppression or privilege.

However, critics believe such a framework would severely impede academic freedom and create an unwelcoming student environment, leaving institutions less diverse. University of Kentucky President Eli Capliouto recently spoke out against SB 6 and HB 228, which would hinder tenure protection, calling the spate of bills “deeply concerning,” WUKY reports.

“Across this campus, staff and faculty work to support students of color and from underrepresented backgrounds,” Capilouto wrote. “We should value and support that work, not diminish it.”

While the University of Louisville President Kim Schatzel did not specifically reference the bills, she wrote in a community-wide newsletter following the bills’ proposals that she “strongly endorse(s) continued support” for DEI initiatives at UofL, WDRB reports.

“Only in such circumstances and with such experiences will our students be prepared to foster their own and others’ excellence in a diverse global economy. In short, a diverse and inclusive campus better prepares our students to lead,” she said in a statement.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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