‘America is under attack’: Inside the anti-DEI crusade

‘America is under attack’: Inside the anti-DEI crusade

The New York Times reports:

In late 2022, a group of conservative activists and academics set out to abolish the diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Texas’ public universities.

They linked up with a former aide to the state’s powerful lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who made banning D.E.I. initiatives one of his top priorities. Setting their sights on well-known schools like Texas A&M, they researched which offices and employees should be expunged. A well-connected alumnus conveyed their findings to the A&M chancellor; the former Patrick aide cited them before a State Senate committee. The campaign quickly yielded results: In May, Texas approved legislation banishing all such programs from public institutions of higher learning.

Long before Claudine Gay resigned Harvard’s presidency this month under intense criticism of her academic record, her congressional testimony about campus antisemitism and her efforts to promote racial justice, conservative academics and politicians had begun making the case that the decades-long drive to increase racial diversity in America’s universities had corrupted higher education. Gathering strength from a backlash against Black Lives Matter, and fueled by criticism that doctrines such as critical race theory had made colleges engines of progressive indoctrination, the eradication of D.E.I. programs has become both a cause and a message suffusing the American right. In 2023, more than 20 states considered or approved new laws taking aim at D.E.I., even as polling has shown that diversity initiatives remain popular.

Thousands of documents obtained by The New York Times cast light on the playbook and the thinking underpinning one nexus of the anti-D.E.I. movement — the activists and intellectuals who helped shape Texas’ new law, along with measures in at least three other states. The material, which includes casual correspondence with like-minded allies around the country, also reveals unvarnished views on race, sexuality and gender roles. And despite the movement’s marked success in some Republican-dominated states, the documents chart the activists’ struggle to gain traction with broader swaths of voters and officials. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

Over the past two years, as Ishan Bhabha and his colleagues at the law firm Jenner & Block prepared briefs for the affirmative action case the Supreme Court ruled on last year, Mr. Bhabha had a realization: If higher education institutions like Harvard were the first target of litigation about diversity, equity and inclusion, America’s corporate boardrooms were probably next.

Mr. Bhabha began working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies to evaluate their diversity programs and ensure that they were on solid legal ground if they were sued.

Proponents of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs, commonly called D.E.I., argue that they are important to hiring and retaining people of color. Critics now argue that some such programs can exclude white and Asian people unfairly from hiring processes.

In recent months, hundreds of companies have been re-examining those initiatives after a series of challenges to diversity programs: the threat of litigation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down race-conscious college admissions, criticism of D.E.I. initiatives from some high-profile business leaders and a wave of layoffs in the tech industry that heavily affected D.E.I. teams.

This pushback — which has come as more than 20 states weighed or passed new laws last year targeting D.E.I. initiatives — has had a chilling effect on some corporate D.E.I. offices, according to diversity advisers.

“When the economy is booming and when the politics are amenable, we see a lot of growth in diversity programming,” said Frank Dobbin, an expert on D.E.I. at Harvard and author of the 2022 book “Getting to Diversity.” “When there’s either a change in the political winds — which is what’s happening now — or a recession, we’ve seen cutbacks.”

The backlash, Dr. Dobbin said, has pushed some human resource professionals to keep their D.E.I. efforts “under the radar.” At recent conferences he has attended, Dr. Dobbin added, corporate leaders have discussed how to approach D.E.I. “in a less in-your-face way.” [Continue reading…]

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