North Texas Daily

UNT pauses all new diversity, equity and inclusion practices

UNT pauses all new diversity, equity and inclusion practices

UNT pauses all new diversity, equity and inclusion practices
March 08
16:39 2023

Editors Note: This article has been updated to include additional information about Chancellor Michael Williams.

University President Neal Smatresk and Provost Michael McPherson spoke today at the university’s faculty senate meeting to discuss changes to diversity, equity and inclusion policies in the UNT system.

Chancellor Michael Williams’ notice, sent out to university students and faculty 30 minutes before the meeting, states the university will pause “the implementation of any new DE&I policies, programs, and trainings until an evaluation is concluded.”

“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,” President Smatresk said in an interview with the Daily. “And so 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.”

The chancellor’s email and the pausing of DEI practices comes after a letter was sent from the governor’s office calling DEI initiatives discriminatory and illegal, causing several institutions in the state to pause or remove their own policies. The UNT System is the last of the major Texas university systems to release a statement about DEI initiatives.

McPherson said during the meeting that he had already met with deans prior to the announcement to prepare colleges and notify hiring committees. Smatresk and McPherson noted the removal of DEI language should not repeal the ideas behind them, and the university’s new core values could help reinforce similar ideas to what DEI policies had.

UNT Provost Michael McPherson speaks during the faculty senate meeting on March 8, 2023. Maria Crane

“It is perfectly reasonable to talk to job candidates about how they would meet our diverse student body,” McPherson said. “’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.”

After Smatresk and McPherson’s statements, some faculty and students asked questions and commented on the new policy. Student Government Association President Jermaine Turner, who has a seat on hiring committees at the university, expressed concerns about if the UNT system values could provide the same precision as DEI initiatives.

“How are we ensuring that those values are being reinstated?” Turner said during the meeting. “As someone who is working with [the values,] I’m not sure if anyone in the room has even read them.”

While the governor’s letter does not reflect any actual legal precedent as of now, it has not been specified whether the restrictions apply beyond just hiring practices.

“I’m not sure the answer,” Smatresk said. “Focus to date has been on hiring policies. It is unclear what else might be included in that.”

Smatresk clarified the chancellor and the university’s response aims to create a conversation between Texas universities and the governor’s office. The governor’s office has not released any new statements since the release of its initial letter.

“I suppose the optimist would say: is that enough? But it’s not clear,” Smatresk said. “We understand there will be a discussion, we would simply like a seat at the table when there is, which is more productive than generating our own statements.”

Featured Image UNT President Neal Smatresk speaks during the faculty senate meeting while standing in front of a Texas flag on March 8, 2023. Maria Crane

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Ayden Runnels

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