With State Bans on D.E.I., Some Universities Find a Workaround: Rebranding

At the University of Tennessee, the campus D.E.I. program is now called the Division of Access and Engagement.

Louisiana State University also rebranded its diversity office after Jeff Landry, a Trump-backed Republican, was elected governor last fall. Its Division of Inclusion, Civil Rights and Title IX is now called the Division of Engagement, Civil Rights and Title IX.

And at the University of Oklahoma, the diversity office is now the Division of Access and Opportunity.

In what appears to be an effort to placate or, even head fake, opponents of diversity and equity programs, university officials are relaunching their D.E.I. offices under different names, changing the titles of officials, and rewriting requirements to eliminate words like “diversity” and “equity.” In some cases, only the words have changed.

For some universities, the opposition to diversity programs comes at a challenging time. They face an incoming student shortage, the result of declining birthrates and skepticism of the value of an expensive college degree. Others are worried about how the ban on race-conscious admissions will affect the complexion of their campuses.

In either case, many college officials feel they need D.E.I. offices to market to an increasingly diverse generation of students and the faculty who might attract them. While no two campus diversity programs are exactly alike, they often preside over a variety of functions, including operating student cultural centers, ensuring regulatory compliance and hosting racial bias workshops for students and faculty members.

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