HOW MUCH ARE STATE COLLEGES REALLY SPENDING ON DEI PROGRAMS IN OKLAHOMA?

News 9-Haley Weger - December 18, 2023 10:32 am

After the governor’s executive order to cut down on diversity, equity and inclusion spending, News 9’s digging into the data to see how much is going to DEI programs.

Many republican lawmakers have been calling for decreased DEI spending, but reports show less than 1% of state and federal funding supports DEI.

“Let’s not discriminate based on race, that’s all we’re saying here,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.

The governor’s executive order signed this week requires all colleges to report their DEI spending by May 2024.

“I’ve just heard from all over the state people are just tired of wasting our dollars on something that tries to divide us,” said Stitt. “We need to stop sending six-figure salaries to DEI staff and more on preparing students to get that job and to have a successful career.”

State Superintendent Ryan Walters called for a similar report in January of this year, requesting the last decade of DEI spending from the Oklahoma state regents for higher education.

The regents complied with the request and submitted a report that showed less than 1% of state and federal funding supports DEI. They estimated $10.2 million in DEI spending for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with $3.4 million of that amount coming from state appropriations.

In 2023 the University of Oklahoma budgeted $2.2 million for diversity and inclusion, with $1.4 million of that going to faculty and staff pay. That is out of a total overall budget of more than $1.4 billion.

Now, the OU president says Stitt’s order will eliminate the OU DEI program. OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. sent a letter to the OU community saying, “Though we are obligated to comply with the governor’s executive order, we will remain committed to ensuring an education from the University of Oklahoma remains accessible and available to all.”

“We want every kid who graduates from OU or Oklahoma State or our regional colleges ready for that workforce as well,” said Stitt.

Several lawmakers have also raised concerns that the governor’s order could put federal funding or accreditation at risk. Many colleges depend on millions of dollars in grant funding, and several grants are tied to DEI support.

Last year, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation began requiring schools to provide evidence of some sort of commitment to DEI.

“We always have people that will say, well it’s the accreditation officers that are forcing us to do this or that. You know, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes, whether it’s accreditation or not,” said Stitt.

The Oklahoma State Regents for higher education sent a statement, saying “We are reviewing the governor’s executive order, and the state system of higher education will comply. We will continue to focus on supporting all Oklahoma students as they pursue college degrees and prepare to join our workforce.”

All Oklahoma colleges must report their DEI spending to Stitt and lawmakers by May of 2024.

——

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order Wednesday regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at higher education institutions throughout the state.

The executive order will require state agencies and universities to review the need and effectiveness of DEI positions, departments, activities, procedures, and programs to eliminate and dismiss non-critical personnel, according to a media advisory sent by Stitt’s office.

Stitt said he wants to encourage equal opportunity instead of promising equal outcomes.

“Encouraging our workforce, economy, and education systems to flourish means shifting focus away from exclusivity and discrimination and toward opportunity and merit. We’re taking politics out of education and focusing on preparing students for the workforce,” Stitt said in a news release sent Wednesday afternoon.

The order will affect every university in the state; the University Of Oklahoma was among one of the first to respond to the signature.

“For many of us, this news evokes deep concern and uncertainty about the future, and in many ways, feels like a step backward,” the a statement from University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr. said. “Though we are obligated to comply with the governor’s executive order, we will remain committed to ensuring an education from the University of Oklahoma remains accessible and available to all, and we will continue to work to recruit and retain a workforce of talented and qualified minds that is representative of our state.”

Democratic lawmakers from Stillwater and Norman also responded to the governor’s executive order.

Senator Boren from Norman says that this will impact business expansion in Oklahoma

“Governor Kevin Stitt’s claim that ‘Oklahoma is open for business’ cannot be taken seriously by banning future business leaders from learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion on college campuses,” Boren said.

Senator Rosecrants has similar concerns.

“I wonder if he even cares that this wrong-headed executive order will have a chilling effect on the Oklahoma economy. Corporations looking to invest in Oklahoma will continue to pass us over for more forward-thinking and innovative states which respect the diverse world in which we all live,” Rosecrants said.

Representative Deck from Norman is concerned for the people DEI programs are meant to protect.

“This is an attack on support for first-generation students, students with disabilities, students who are veterans, international students, not to mention our countless students who are racially, culturally, religiously, and economically diverse,” Deck said.

Representative Menz says that nothing can stop diversity, and taking DEI programs away from students could limit them in the future.

“As state leaders we should be invested in preparing our students for the realities of the workplace they’ll one day join, not using them to score some cheap political points with a handful of extremists,” Menz said.

The University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr.’s full statement:

“Today, Oklahoma’s governor signed an executive order eliminating offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at all public higher education institutions in Oklahoma, including our own.

For many of us, this news evokes deep concern and uncertainty about the future, and in many ways, feels like a step backward. Please be assured that key to our ongoing successes as the state’s flagship university – now and forever – are the foundational values that have served as our constant north star: access and opportunity for all of those with the talent and tenacity to succeed, being a place of belonging for all who attend; dedication to free speech and inquiry; and civility in our treatment of each other.

These values transcend political ideology, and in them, we are unwavering.

Though we are obligated to comply with the governor’s executive order, we will remain committed to ensuring an education from the University of Oklahoma remains accessible and available to all, and we will continue to work to recruit and retain a workforce of talented and qualified minds that is representative of our state. In the coming weeks, we will issue further guidance on our compliance with this mandate while staying true to our values.

I urge our community to not let today’s development overshadow the monumental advancements we’ve made in uplifting Oklahoma as a more prosperous place for all. While many universities across the country are struggling, OU is flourishing. Our campuses are seeing unprecedented enrollment growth, we are championing our state’s economic development by bringing to market new research and technologies discovered by our esteemed faculty, and we are enriching the vibrant culture of our state through the arts and humanities, profoundly impacting the lives of every single Oklahoman.

Make no mistake: At OU, we stand firm in our promise to uphold the core principles that make our university a beacon where the American Dream is available to all. We know, too, that our students, university community, and the citizens of Oklahoma are resolute in their commitment to these values. Together, we will continue forward with care, intention, and an unyielding dedication to the principles that have always defined us. Together, we deserve nothing less.

Live On, University.”

Oklahoma State University’s full statement:

“We are in the process of reviewing the executive order to ensure we meet our legal obligations while continuing to cultivate a welcoming environment for all students, faculty and staff.”

Statements from Oklahoma’s democratic lawmakers from Stillwater and Norman:

“Governor Kevin Stitt’s claim that ‘Oklahoma is open for business’ cannot be taken seriously by banning future business leaders from learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion on college campuses – and that is his goal. But every successful entrepreneur and Fortune 500 corporation has invested significant resources in recruiting and retaining the most qualified, diverse and inclusive pool of employees. The governor’s ban is a threat to every economic development strategy in Oklahoma and undermines the employability of business majors throughout Oklahoma. DEI is a mainstreamed way to learn how to strengthen our universities, economy, and preserve our democracy.” – Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman

“This executive order is a clear sign that Governor Stitt has submitted to State Superintendent Ryan Walters’s agenda to attack public education and expel public education students from this state. This is an attack on support for first-generation students, students with disabilities, students who are veterans, international students, not to mention our countless students who are racially, culturally, religiously, and economically diverse. The governor may speak on behalf of the executive branch, but he doesn’t speak on behalf of the thousands of students served by programs and universities that value them for who they are.” – Rep. Jared Deck, D-Norman

 “There is no executive order, no legislation, no political catchphrase, that can stop actual diversity. Nothing can stop it. Trying to swindle college kids out of their opportunity to interact with and understand that diversity is absurd and futile. Additionally, this action will have a negative impact on faculty and staff at our universities but also on students with disabilities, international students, veterans, and so many others who rely on these services to support their education. As state leaders we should be invested in preparing our students for the realities of the workplace they’ll one day join, not using them to score some cheap political points with a handful of extremists.” – Rep. Annie Menz, D-Norman

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies are put in place to deter discrimination of marginalized communities. The fact that the governor sees this in reverse further illustrates the fact that he’s not experienced true discrimination. We need to let our universities lead the way and work towards better educating all students.” – Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater

“Governor Stitt seems to only listen to his far-right base when he attacks equity, which means being fair and impartial; inclusion, meaning giving equal access to resources for people who might otherwise be left out; and diversity, which means people from different social and ethnic backgrounds, different genders, sexual orientations, etc. I wonder if he even cares that this wrong-headed executive order will have a chilling effect on the Oklahoma economy. Corporations looking to invest in Oklahoma will continue to pass us over for more forward-thinking and innovative states which respect the diverse world in which we all live.” – Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman

 

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