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Oklahoma Governor Signs Executive Order Pushing Back Against DEI in Higher Ed

December 14, 2023

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt yesterday signed an executive order aimed at combating the malign influence of discriminatory diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices in the state’s public universities.

Coming on the heels of the Goldwater Institute’s victories against DEI in Texas, Florida, and Iowa—each of which have now defunded DEI bureaucracies in public higher education—Gov. Stitt’s order is aimed at stopping the most egregious forms of racial discrimination on campus. Specifically, it bans the use of taxpayer funds for DEI programs that grant preferential treatment based on a person’s race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

Under the executive order, each state institution is also required to report to the governor and legislature the amount of state funds expended on DEI programs by May 2024, teeing up further action on this issue in future legislative sessions.

The executive order also prohibits the use of so-called “diversity statements” in hiring processes, which universities often use as political litmus tests to discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants by requiring them to pledge fealty to progressivism. Oklahoma is just the latest state to adopt Goldwater’s recommendation to ban diversity statements, with the Arizona and Iowa Boards of Regents each ditching the practice earlier this year.

While the governor’s executive order is a promising first step, the Oklahoma Legislature must now also ensure that taxpayer-funded subsidies for DEI are fully uprooted. This means enacting protections for professors and students against DEI mandates in classrooms; stopping the DEI-infused campus thought police from enforcing ideological conformity using “bias reporting systems”; and ensuring that DEI offices that promote race- or gender-based resentment (even if they don’t explicitly engage in racially preferential treatment) don’t receive taxpayer subsidies.

Such legislation is necessary to permanently and fully rid Oklahoma college campuses of this toxic ideology.

Brian Norman is the Director of State Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.



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