December 6, 2023

Diving Overview:

  • Oklahoma’s education secretary late last month gave the state’s public higher education system nine days to compile a 10-year history of spending on diversity, equity and inclusion, matching similar demands from politicians nationwide intent on rooting out perceived indoctrination in higher ed.
  • Ryan Walters, who was also elected state superintendent of education in November, wrote to Allison Garrett, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, on Jan. 23, ordering her to provide a 10-year breakdown of DEI costs by Feb. 1.
  • Garrett met the deadline, writing to Walker on Wednesday that the system directed hundreds of staff to compile the report “in a very short amount of time during the busy start of the spring semester.” The system allocated approximately $10.2 million—0.29% of total increased spending—to diversity initiatives during fiscal year 2022-2023. Over a decade, state money for diversity initiatives equaled one-tenth of 1% of spending.

Diving statistics:

The trend continues for policymakers to increasingly enter higher education matters traditionally reserved for administrators and faculty. This was on full display in Florida, where the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has made reshaping public postsecondary education part of his platform ahead of his anticipated 2024 presidential bid.

He installed several conservatives on the board of New College of Florida, a public liberal arts institution. Trustees recently ousted the college’s president and replaced her with former state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a DeSantis ally.

Similar to Oklahoma, DeSantis he told Florida’s public colleges in December, he detailed their spending on diversity, equity, inclusion and critical race theory, he later said wanted to clean such programs from government institutions.

In his campaign for superintendent, Walters similarly pledged to remove what he saw as widespread liberal indoctrination from public education.

His office has he said in statements to the media that Walker’s request to the Oklahoma system sought to determine how deep such indoctrination is, how the state plans for the next fiscal year.

Of the more than $10 million allocated to DEI programs in the current fiscal year, about $3.7 million came from the state, or 0.11% of higher state ed spending.

The system’s two-year colleges spent the most on DEI, roughly $4.8 million, compared to its two research institutions, which gave $3.7 million, and its four-year regional institutions, which committed $1.7 million.

Diversity spending increased from $7.2 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

In her response to Walters, Chancellor Garrett wrote that DEI’s efforts at public colleges benefit a number of disadvantaged groups, including veterans, first-generation students and those who are racial minorities.

She has written certain laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandate certain diversity practices. System accreditors such as the Higher Learning Commission require institutions to demonstrate DEI support in order to maintain their status.

“Our goal as a state system is to meet the needs of all the students we serve and help them in every way possible to enroll, persist and successfully complete their degrees to become doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and computer programmers. tomorrow,” Garrett wrote.

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