Texas DEI shutdown: UT Austin faculty members push back

In this edition of Texas: The Issue Is, the issue is the DEI purge pushback. 

Since January, when SB 17 took effect, college administrators all across Texas have been shutting down diversity, equity and inclusion programs. 

In response to that, members of a faculty labor union rallied at the University of Texas here in Austin, calling on school leaders to stop the rollback. 

FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski spoke to two members about why they believe some form of DEI should remain on every campus. 

PAULINE STRONG: I would like the university to restore the programs that were lost. I believe they were lost to please political forces in the state. 

KARMA CHAVEZ: I never understood what people were saying about what was wrong with it, because all we're trying to do is make a better campus for more students. 

RUDY KOSKI: There are some programs that are viewed to be divisive, where we start breaking people up into compartments. You're in this tribe, you're in this tribe, you're in this tribe. Do you feel that we can move away from that? 

KARMA CHAVEZ: Well, it's not a either or. So, there's got to be space for people who come from marginalized backgrounds to have their own space to represent their cultures, to just feel comfortable. A campus like this, it can be really hard if you're a student of color, for example. And so it's nice to have spaces that are meant for you.

RUDY KOSKI: DEI has become a four-letter word. Can the concept be rebooted and do you think it could be less divisive? 

PAULINE STRONG: We are a diverse group of people, so diversity is already here. Equity and inclusion are not. We need to keep working at equity and inclusion, and we need to acknowledge how many different kinds of people we have in Texas, how many different kinds of students we have. And we need to work to support each other. And we need staff who help us do that as well. 

RUDY KOSKI: There are people who will say, Texas already is doing that. We recognize we're diverse, and we recognize people should be treated fairly. Why do we need DEI? 

PAULINE STRONG: I don't see that happening outside of DEI. I see the purge of staff who had decades of experience, many of them, working with students to help them succeed. I think that purge shows that we're not doing what we need to be doing. 

RUDY KOSKI: But at the expense of another race, because that was the argument against DEI was that we're lifting up one group, pushing down another. 

PAULINE STRONG: I don't think anything about DEI pushes down another group. It is lifting up people who have been marginalized, people whose parents and grandparents did not have the chance to go to college. It is uplifting us all. 


RUDY KOSKI: Don't we already have these protections in place? Affirmative action, discrimination laws? 

KARMA CHAVEZ: I mean, well, we don't really have affirmative action anymore. That's pretty much been thrown out the window. You know, discrimination is about a very kind of particular legal definition. And it doesn't get at, for example, microaggressions and the kind of little things that happen to students on the day to day, that make being on a campus like this really hard, and all DEI was, was a Band-Aid to try to make life a little bit better for folks. 

RUDY KOSKI: So how do we reboot this? How do we come together, especially during these times? 

KARMA CHAVEZ: Yeah. I mean, I think we need people to come together in earnestness. So not, just to prove that my point is right, for you to prove that your point is right, but really, to hear each other.