The University of North Texas is the latest state system to pause diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives (DEI) after Governor Greg Abbott sent a warning that they are illegal when hiring.
Chancellor of the UNT System, Michael R. Williams, told faculty, staff and students in a statement on March 8 that any new diversity, equity and inclusion “policies, programs, and training” are paused until a full review of the system’s hiring policies is complete, according to the North Texas Daily.
"The UNT system will continue to prioritize our people — embracing all backgrounds through an equitable and inclusive approach — while ensuring all policies and programs align with our core values, purpose and mission," William wrote.
During an interview with the North Texas Daily, UNT President Smatresk explained what the pause of the DEI will mean for the university, but noted that UNT will continue to hold its values on diversity.
“I think the focus is to make sure that we’re hiring people based off their merit and their ability to do the jobs that we ask,” Smatresk said. “If they’re hiring a teacher, they’d better be able to teach in the classroom, they’d better be able to reach our students, they better understand that we live in a very inclusive environment.”
Provost Michael McPherson argued that it is “perfectly reasonable” to ask potential employees how they meet the diverse student body.
“How will you create an inclusive classroom environment for our students? Nothing wrong with that, that’s what we are, that’s what we do,” McPherson said.
UNT is one of the last systems in Texas to pause DEI, which was prompted by Abbott’s Feb. 6 warning to state agencies saying that DEI policies and programs are illegal in hiring processes.
"Indeed, rather than increasing diversity in the workplace, these DEI initiatives are having the opposite effect and are being advanced in ways that proactively encourage discrimination in the workplace," stated the memo, which was obtained by KHOU 11.
After Abbott’s memo, Texas’ six university systems began announcing reviews of their hiring policies, making UNT the latest.
UNT joins the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems that also changed their DEI policies since the memo was sent. On Feb. 22, the UT system paused the practices, and a week later, Texas A&M was directed by its chancellor to remove DEI statements from employment and admission practices.