University of Houston removes diversity, inclusion statements from hiring practices
HOUSTON - The University of Houston system announced they will be removing diversity, equity, and inclusion statements from their hiring practices on Friday.
According to Houston Public Media, which is licensed by the University of Houston, UH Chancellor Renu Khator send out an email to the campus community saying they will no longer use DEI statements or factors in their hiring or promotion processes.
"In order to ensure compliance with state and federal law, we will not support or use DEI statements or factors in hiring or promotion anywhere in the University of Houston System," the email from Khator said.
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UH freshman Mariam Yahiam said the directive feels regressive. "I just think that’s a little backwards. I feel like we are moving ahead and UH is a big school. I feel like part of their culture is how diverse it is and being able to walk on campus and seeing how diverse it is and seeing so many people of different backgrounds," Yahiam said. "It’s definitely not the UH culture and I think taking that out would certainly kill the college culture and kill the college experience as a whole."
"People come from all different places, different circumstances, different lifestyles, I think it’s important for everyone to understand how other people live, how they operate and their mindsets and mentalities," said Husam Ali, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas. Ali was visiting UH as part of 'Culture Connect Week.'
Wajih Muhammad, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, echoed Ali's sentiment.
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"Our college life is almost over, but our siblings are over here and the younger kids, we also want them to experience the same diversity and equality that we also went through," Muhammad said.
This comes after Governor Greg Abbott's office announced the use of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which are policies supporting groups who have been historically underrepresented or discriminated against, illegal in hiring.
So far, several other public universities in Texas have said they are now reviewing their DEI policies, including Texas A&M, Texas State, the University of Texas systems, and Texas Tech.
On Thursday, it was announced the Texas A&M University system would also remove its diversity, equity, and inclusion statements from hiring and admission practices. Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp immediately ordered all A&M System institutions to review their employment and admission practices and confirm their compliance, according to the university.
Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said the decision was a political move to appeal to Abbott’s conservative Republican base.
"By in large, DEI programs tend to benefit underrepresented groups and those tend to be African Americans and to a greater extent, Latinos, and they tend to adversely affect overrepresented groups and that tends to be whites and Asian Americans and we see that across the country in higher education," Jones said.
Latino students make up the largest demographic at UH, accounting for more than 33% of those enrolled, according to DataUSA.
In a memo sent out to UH employees on Friday, Chancellor Renu Khator said UH embraces diversity and will continue welcoming students and staff of all backgrounds
The full memo read:
Dear UH System Colleagues,
The University of Houston System embraces diversity and understands and believes that it is our responsibility to foster an open, welcoming environment where students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds can collaboratively learn, work and serve.
We will continue to ensure our policies are consistent with state and federal laws, and we stand against any actions or activities which promote discrimination in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion ("DEI").
There have been reports regarding hiring practices at other state institutions where some committees may be asking for DEI statements for consideration in hiring and promotion decisions or otherwise using DEI as a factor in those decisions. In order to ensure compliance with state and federal law, we will not support or use DEI statements or factors in hiring or promotion anywhere in the University of Houston System.
The University of Houston System recognizes the importance of and adheres to the practice of providing all prospective and current employees and students with equal opportunity in education and employment. The System also seeks to foster an environment free from discrimination. In compliance with state and federal law the policy of the University of Houston System and its components is to ensure equal opportunity in all its educational programs and activities, and all terms and conditions of employment without regard to age, race, color, disability, religion, national origin, veteran's status, genetic information, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity or status, or gender expression, except where such a distinction is required by law. See, UH System policy, SAM 01.D.05 Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Statement.
Other elected officials like Mayor Sylvester Turner and State Senator Borris Miles have publicly criticized Abbott's directive.
Senator Miles released his own statement following UH's removal of DEI practices. The senator said:
"I have always said our diversity is one of the greatest strengths of Texas. The University of Houston (UH) is proof of that with its rising national reputation and a diverse community of students, faculty and administration from all backgrounds and more than 130 countries. It is for this reason that it was extremely disappointing to learn that UH caved to political pressure and will be removing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) from its hiring practices.
In the university’s own statement, the university says it '…embraces diversity and understands that it is our responsibility to foster an open, welcoming environment where students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds can collaboratively learn, work and serve.' However, how can you truly foster this environment if you remove DEI from the hiring of the faculty and staff who would teach our young minds? The faculty and staff should continue to reflect the diversity of the Houston region and the university's student body.
Removing diversity in hiring sends a terrible message that will hurt UH from attracting the culturally rich diverse workforce that helped it become a rising Tier 1 research institution. This is yet another act of political theater pushed by the state’s leadership on our agencies and universities that will do nothing but hurt our state."