As we embrace the opportunities of 2024, amidst new beginnings and possibilities, certain 2023 developments continue to impact our perspectives.
Effective January 1, 2024, Texas enacted Senate Bill 17,(https://www.kristv.com/news/texas-news/diversity-offices-on-college-campuses-will-soon-be-illegal-in-texas-as-30-new-laws-go-into-effect) altering practices within state public universities. This bill mandates:
- Omitting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements in recruitment.
- Closure of DEI offices on campuses.
- Transition of DEI office employees to other roles within the university.
- Mandated compliance reporting.
From a leadership and DEIB&A executive perspective, these changes spark critical reflections on their implications.
- Lack of Understanding: Some legislators may overlook the inclusive nature of diversity, encompassing all backgrounds. The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion extend beyond boundaries, encompassing every individual.
- Demonstration of Fear: These changes may reflect an apprehension toward embracing positive shifts stemming from inclusivity. Fear, whether of change or a perceived loss, can hinder progress.
- Contradicting DEIB&A Values: With numerous students across Texas universities, these changes limit access to support services. According to CollegeSimply.com – “there are 100 public colleges and universities in Texas enrolling 1,421,368 students”. Instead of fostering inclusivity, the bill seemingly closes doors to essential opportunities to millions of students across the state.
While private institutions remain unaffected, these legislative shifts pose challenges within the public university system, potentially impeding knowledge acquisition. Yet, educational materials and instructional freedom persist, albeit without support from designated DEIB&A experts.
At SVCF, we advocate for adaptive strategies amid such transitions:
- Explore Alternative Approaches: Adapt and reframe activities to align with evolving guidelines.
- Embrace Off-Campus Collaborations: Seek partnerships outside campus boundaries to support restructured initiatives.
- Leverage Virtual Spaces: Engage in constructive dialogues through secure virtual platforms to address diverse challenges.
- Foster Inter-Institutional Collaborations: Connect with sister universities or private institutions for shared resources. We encourage universities to cross state lines – and see if other sister universities and schools have resources that can help you.
- Consult DEIB&A Specialists: Rely on experts like SVCF for reorganization support and resource augmentation within constrained environments.
While compliance is crucial, prioritizing accessible resources for students and faculty seeking support remains paramount. Legislation, while attempting equity, may inadvertently exacerbate barriers.
While crafting this blog, another concerning incident emerged—an all-white school board plans to eradicate Black history resources and education in its district.
Reflecting on George Orwell’s 1984, such regressive actions evoke contemplation. Orwell’s novel cautioned against manipulative truths and oppressive regimes, a warning still relevant today. 1984 written in 1949 is a bit scary and at the time that I read it, I did not believe that the U.S. would ever demonstrate these kinds of behaviors – the naivety of a 20-year-old woman. The novel speaks to a repressive regime, and focuses on how truths, beliefs, and how acting on those beliefs can easily be manipulated to fit the dominant culture. In the book, the dominant culture focuses on negating historical facts and pursues anyone who does not align with their thinking and repressive actions. This is the book that coined the name – “Big Brother” which is often used very loosely today. However, as Orwell alluded to in 1949/1984 something like this repressive and dictatorial behavior can happen anywhere and at any time.
Today, good leaders frequently stand up and step beyond their comfort zones, and being uncomfortable has been their reality for years. Leadership should always call for unity and support. The essence and principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Accessibility transcends imposed limitations. Maybe it’s new title should be – For All!
#diversityleadership #DEI #Highereducationleaders #womenleaders
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