DeSantis wants to ban diversity and inclusion initiatives at Florida universities

The Impact of Governor Jonathan DeSantis’ Higher Education Expenditure Policy on Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Even if the source of the money isn’t coming from the state, the governor’s office vowed to prohibit universities from funding diversity, equity and inclusion programs even if the source is outside of the state.

Universities in Florida and elsewhere are the very laboratories that show us how to achieve fairer and more inclusive classrooms. They are testing these ideas for the benefit of the wider society. People of color stand to gain the most when the institutions they found themselves in begin to reflect society’s diversity, as a result of DeSantis’ new policy.

Tuesday’s announcement was foreshadowed in December when the governor’s office asked all state universities to account for all of their spending on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory.

There is a 15-minute drive from New College of Florida, a liberal arts college which is being remake into a conservative vision for higher education, where DeSantis has announced his higher education agenda. DeSantis said his budget will include $15 million to restructure New College and hire faculty.

One of DeSantis’ new board members, Eddie Speir, wrote in an online post that he planned to propose in that meeting “terminating all contracts for faculty, staff and administration” of the school, “and immediately rehiring those faculty, staff and administration who fit in the new financial and business model.”

It isn’t an accident that the proposed DEI restrictions in Florida come after the ban on AP African American studies. Both areas of research are committed to equity. DeSantis, like Republican leaders in other states, may want to stop progress for political reasons, but social science and data are not on his side.

The best evidence for achieving racial equity in organizational structures, policies and practices is evaluated and disseminated through research, convenings and public dialogue by Harvard’s Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project.

Efforts like those undertaken by DeSantis to undermine DEI programs on campus will damage decades of progress made by colleges and universities in addressing their legacies of exclusion among women, people of color and other marginalized populations.

The move would destroy the new efforts to address racial inequality in institutions of higher learning in the state, which were put in place following the death of George Floyd.

Many studies show how effective DEI programs are in addressing structural biases in higher education. And they show proven results.

And the onslaught against DEI comes at the very time that business is embracing the benefits of such initiatives. Tech giants Slack and Intel are among numerous companies that have benefited from workplace DEI programs by focusing on building a more racially diverse staff as well as making structural changes that encourage more inclusive decision-making, hiring and contracting.

The educators at Texas A&M found out breaking a culture of race-blind hiring builds more effective and robust faculty. Having a more racially diverse faculty results in better faculty retention and performance by students of color.

We created an open-sourced database two years ago that compiles research on diversity, racial equity and antiracist organizational change. The database provides us with a unique opportunity to find important academic studies which aren’t found behind subscription paywalls, and help changemakers find the tools they need.

How an initiative to end DEI can change the hiring process in a private university: Educators, administrators, and the school leadership team

The move to end DEI in Florida also comes at a time when such initiatives are under duress at institutions of higher learning around the country, with professionals in the field saying they often feel the work that they do is not fully appreciated and supported.

The assistant professor of higher education at a private university, who studies DEI, revealed in a study how the DEI initiative was able to change the hiring process at a private university.

The religiously affiliated private university he studied, which was given a pseudonym in the published research, redesigned job descriptions and hiring templates, included more staff and administrators in the interview process, required implicit bias training for search committees and ultimately achieved its goal of increasing the pool of talented junior faculty of color.

In a second study, Decoteau J. Irby and Shannon P. Clark of the University of Illinois Chicago showed that race-specific language can improve communication among school leadership teams.

Meanwhile, avoiding the topic of race or using race-evasive language does not reduce racial disparities in student disciplinary action, and it stymies school improvement efforts. Research tells us that when educators are able to speak more explicitly about race and racism, they are more effective at developing school-based procedures, including disciplinary action, resulting in greater racial parity in student outcomes.

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