NAS Applauds Oklahoma Governor's Executive Order

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) congratulates Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt for issuing an Executive Order to remove “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) bureaucracies and programs from state agencies, especially public universities. Governor Stitt’s action makes possible the removal of these illiberal and authoritarian bureaucracies from Oklahoma’s public universities and state government. Oklahomans have cause to be grateful for the Governor for his action in defense of their liberty.

Our congratulation comes with a caution: much work remains to be done. The Executive Order included a large number of provisos, from an abundance of caution. The order does not apply to university classrooms, so as to ensure academic freedom. The order only applies to DEI programs “to the extent they grant preferential treatment,” and word-chopping lawyers surely will pretend that DEI programs that grant preferential treatment don’t actually do so. Most importantly, it does not apply if accreditation or licensure demand DEI—and since virtually universities routinely claim that all accreditation or licensure now does require DEI, this exception may well make much of the order a dead letter, unless it is closed by a follow-up order. (Ohio Senate Bill 83 requires universities to report the exact text of accreditation and grants that supposedly require DEI—Oklahoma might well adopt that requirement.) Then, too, there is the dead weight of noncompliance—if higher education bureaucracies flout this order, how will it be enforced?

But this is the case everywhere that the rollback of DEI has begun. Oklahoma now joins a select group of states, including Florida and Texas, which have begun to use administrative and legislative means to remove DEI. Everywhere, the champions of liberty face hostile bureaucracies devoted to DEI—in the federal government, in higher education, and throughout the public sector. They also face lawfare by well-heeled universities, the twenty-first century’s malefactors of great wealth. The statement of principle matters terribly much—the discriminatory and illiberal principles and bureaucracies of DEI should be dismantled as swiftly as possible. So too does the necessary work to put that principle into effect, to follow up on every first law and Executive Order with successors that extend the principle and ensure compliance.

Oklahoma’s accomplishment, and the work it has yet to do, is the central story of the necessary rollback of DEI. NAS has spoken vigorously in recent days about the misdeeds of Harvard President Claudine Gay, and the way she personifies the iniquities of the DEI regime. All this is true, and her position as head of the most prestigious American institution of higher education justifies attention to her personal case. But America’s public universities are the main trunk of higher education, and the slow, detailed, necessary work to remove DEI bureaucracies from these public universities is the central struggle for the future of our colleges and universities. Governor Stitt’s Executive Order substantially forwards the liberation of our public universities from the DEI regime, and that matters more for America than Harvard Corporation’s shameful retention of Claudine Gay.

NAS congratulates Governor Stitt—and we urge state policymakers and the public to continue to focus on the steady, ever-more successful campaign to free our public universities from DEI.

Photo by Adobe Stock

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