Diversity resources might be impacted by recent Executive Order

Universities across the country are figuring out how their Equity and Inclusion programs will be impacted by the recent White House order.

Universities across the nation, including the University of Washington tri-campuses, are currently figuring out how a recent White House order will impact their diversity, equity and inclusion programs, training and education. On Sep. 22, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13950, preventing any and all institutions that receive grant funds, as well as the Uniformed services, the Federal workforce and government contractors, from promoting “divisive concepts” in relation to diversity training.

By Oct. 22, all organizations and institutions that receive Federal grant money will be subject to a review of the content of their diversity training, and institutions which are found to be promoting divisive concepts will possibly lose their funding. “Divisive concepts” include race or sex stereotyping and race or sex scapegoating, which are further defined in the order itself.

Some universities have temporarily halted their diversity and inclusion programs as they evaluate their trainings and weigh the cost of non-compliance. The University of Iowa had placed a two week hold on all equity and diversity training while they reviewed their programs. Meanwhile, some universities, such as the University of Michigan, have remained firm in their programs and planned to continue every scheduled training and educational event.

UW Tacoma’s Vice-Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion James McShay explained that the UW tri-campuses will also go ahead with scheduled diversity, equity and inclusion events and training. 

“I’ve been informed that the State Attorney General’s Office has formed a working group to review the order,” McShay said. “The guidance that we’ve been given from UW is that all campuses will move forward with [Department of Equity and Inclusion] education and training that is planned and/or currently underway — as this work is central to our University’s mission.”

When asked to clarify if UWT would follow the main UW campus’ guidance, McShay confirmed UWT will continue with everything as planned.

“Yes, absolutely,” McShay said. “We will move forward with all planned DEI education and trainings at UWT given the guidance received from UW. Please know that this work is central to the mission of our campus.”

Critics of Executive Order 13950 state that the order overreaches in what is acceptable and does not allow a proper review of materials with the chance for clarification and the ability to properly adjust training and education. In a letter to the White House, the American Council of Educators stated that the order was far too expansive in requiring a complete review of all federally funded grants which utilize diversity training.

“At a minimum, a mandate this sweeping and intrusive should be subject to a regulatory process under the Administrative Procedure Act, which would allow affected organizations to ask questions, seek clarifications, and recommend changes before the new requirements take effect,” said ACE in their letter.

At the time of writing, it is currently up in the air as to how UW Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell will be affected by this order. The Washington State Attorney General office is currently looking at the legality and feasibility of the order, and it will still take time to send documents and resources over to the Federal government. Despite the uncertainty, UWT Chancellor Mark Pagano has reaffirmed the campus’ commitment to having and supporting an Equity and Inclusion program with the resources it needs.

“We’re moving ahead,” Pagano said. “We have a lot of work to do with respect to implementing new things as a result of our climate survey feedback … [Diversity resources and training] is central to our campus mission. We have six major goals in our strategic plan, and one is on culture and one is on equity. It is a major focus on campus and central to our mission and central to our core values.”