Friday, February 24, 2023

Let's call Gov. Abbott's attack on diversity what it is—Jim Crowism

As former Austin American-Statesman editorial writer, Alberta Phillips, has recently expressed in a statement to the media:

"It should not be taken as fact that DEI policies are illegal or unconstitutional. If any government official says that is the case, then the media should require that the statement be backed exclusively by evidence and facts. As a check on government, the media has an obligation to sort fact from fiction. The facts are that DEI policies are ways of encouraging People of Color to apply for state jobs and admission to state universities. And on the part of state agencies and universities, DEI policies are simply goals — without the force of law or consequences — that aim to move the needle forward so that state agencies, public colleges, and universities reflect the people who pay the tabs to sustain them.” 

DEI policies and practices are precisely what helps keep us from being a system of Apartheid. They also help us to ensure an inclusive university and workplace for veterans and disabled people. With respect to hiring and college admissions, DEI not at all about quotas or hiring unqualified people. It's about consideration for equally qualified people.

Many whites don't like to hear the words "white supremacy." What they seem not to know is how us people of color don't like to hear it either. But that's what this is all about. And that's what "Jim Crowism" has always been about—a morally impoverished and backwards Texas that can't seem to conjure a nourishing, life-giving narrative for the future that benefits us all as a multiethnic, multiracial, rainbow humanity.

Black and brown folks and white allies everywhere have to come together and stand up to this retrenchment of white privilege that is harmful to the future of our state, nation, and planet. The litmus test for leaders is if they can cultivate and inspire a new vision for humanity and the planet without which they are disqualified. 

Here is an Action Item you can take today: We, in Black Brown Dialogues on Policy, are asking everybody to sign the pledge we've posted on our BBDP website to "Stand and Fight for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Higher Education." This will put you into an email roster that will allow you to get our notices going forward.

Another announcement is the establishment of the BBDP Gen Z Council that I expect will become a force to recon with. 

It's all good.

In the meantime get out the Gospel of DEI and how it has made a difference for you on social media and every other means possible.

-Angela Valenzuela

#DEIGospel #DontLetDEIdie

Gov. Greg Abbott launches attack on diversity hiring programs in Texas

Public universities and agencies with diversity, equity and inclusion programs are being manipulated to discriminate, governor claims.

Jeremy Wallace | Austin Bureau | Houston Chronicle | Feb. 23, 2023

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives the 'Hook'em" sign during an activation ceremony for the U.S. Army futures Command, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas. The headquarters will be located at the University of Texas Systems Building in Austin. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Gov. Greg Abbott has fired a political warning shot at public universities and state agencies in Texas, pushing them to stop using diversity hiring programs and arguing such efforts are a form of discrimination.

As conservative activists push the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn affirmative action programs at colleges, Abbott’s chief of staff sent a letter Monday to Texas public universities and state agencies warning that the concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, “has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”

The letter is setting up a major clash with nearly every public university in Texas, where the benefits of diversity have been championed. The University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston have made DEI programs central to their missions.

Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze on Wednesday told Hearst Newspapers that the letter is meant to remind universities and state agencies about the law.

"Both federal and state law make equity quotas illegal," she said. "Equity is not equality. Here in Texas, we give people a chance to advance based on talent and merit."

Advocates of diversity and inclusion measures say Abbott and his staff have it all wrong. 

"Anti-discrimination laws protect all Americans by ensuring that employers do not make hiring decisions based on race, religion, or gender — while diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives work in tandem with those laws to encourage companies to solicit applications from a wide range of applicants, which is legal and beneficial," said Andrew Eckhouse, a lawyer at Kaplan Law Firm based in Austin.

"Contrary to what the governor is implying, DEI initiatives have nothing to do with quotas, screenings, or exclusions," Eckhouse said. "Employment decisions must be non-discriminatory, that is nothing new, yet Gov. Abbott’s letter completely mischaracterizes the role of DEI in employment decisions.”

On its website, Texas A&M’s Office of Diversity declares its responsibility to help academic units “embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic and institutional excellence.” 

The University of Texas at San Antonio, through its business school, offers a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program.

At UT, each college, school and unit has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer as well as a website to highlight the importance of those efforts, a change made after campuswide student protests in 2017 led to the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers like Robert E. Lee.

In the warning letter, first reported on by the Texas Tribune, Abbott's chief of staff Gardner Pate claims such efforts backfire:

“Indeed, rather than increasing diversity in the workplace, these DEI initiatives are having the opposite effect and are being advanced in ways that proactively encourage discrimination in the workplace,” he wrote.

Targeting tenure 

Pate’s letter comes after a high-profile lawsuit last year aimed at Texas A&M University’s hiring practices for college faculty.

A University of Texas at Austin associate professor, who is white, sued the Texas A&M University System on behalf of white and Asian faculty candidates, alleging racial discrimination in a fellowship program intended to improve diversity on the College Station campus. The program sought to hire mid-career and senior tenure-track professors from “underrepresented minority groups.”

The UT associate professor's lawsuit is being led by American First Legal, a group created by Stephen Miller, former President Donald Trump's senior policy adviser. 

The letter also comes as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been increasingly vocal about revoking the status of tenured professors over what they are teaching on college campuses.

“I don’t want teachers in our colleges saying America is evil and capitalism is bad and socialism is good. And if that means that some of those professors who teach that don’t want to come to Texas, I’m OK with that,” Patrick said during his inauguration speech in January after winning a new 4-year term in office.

Patrick, a graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, also said he wanted “professors who love this country, who love this state.”

Abbott, 65, is a University of Texas graduate who won his 3rd four-year term as governor in November. 

DeSantis goes further

The letter from Abbott's team and Patrick's comments both echo what has been happening in Florida over the last two months as Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has led a conservative takeover of a public liberal arts college in Sarasota.

In just 25 days, DeSantis appointed six new trustees to the New College of Florida board of trustees, who then fired the school president and are set to replace her next week with the former Republican Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

One of those new trustees is Christopher Rufo, a California native and national activist who has targeted the concept of critical race theory and been a frequent guest on Fox News programs denouncing diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Former President Trump, before he left office, hit similar themes in warning federal agencies in a memo in late 2020 about employees attending diversity training programs that seek “to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.”

Pate’s letter is more direct warning to agency heads and university leaders that “you have a duty to follow the law.”

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

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