Texas A&M is among the most conservative public universities in America, with a student body well to the right of its peers at other schools. Its traditions of military service and commitments to agriculture and mechanical sciences (the original meaning of A&M) connect it to meritocratic invention.
Yet, for more than a decade, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies have transformed the university. Those governing Texas A&M think the school itself is racist—and they have adopted increasingly radical policies to transform it into a typical, leftist American university.
As I discuss in a newly-released report, radical efforts to transform A&M began with its 2010 Diversity Plan, which sought to achieve greater faculty equity and to transform the campus climate through DEI programming. Diversity, it held, is “an indispensable component of academic excellence.” The 2010 Diversity Plan established two committees to evaluate departments and dole out diversity bonuses to conforming colleges.
Diversicrats began building a DEI empire through faculty equity policies and the promotion of campus climate programming. It started slowly. By 2017, STRIDE training, aimed at revealing the systemic and implicit biases of such fraught categories as “best candidate” and “merit,” was mandatory for faculty assigned to search committees. Similar programs were adopted for tenure and promotion committees. Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship Faculty Fellows Program (ACES) fellowships sought to recruit minority candidates with “diversity skills” to A&M. Hate reporting systems were adopted to help transform the campus climate.
Over time, however, A&M administrators became frustrated at the campus’s lack of progress toward diverse and equitable inclusivity. The percentage of black students actually fell at A&M between 2010 and 2020, while the percentage of black faculty remained unchanged. More and more students, from all ethnic groups measured, felt excluded from campus life. Then came the death of George Floyd and the madness of the 2020 riots. A&M exploded with demands to remove statues and institute new DEI plans and mandates.
A&M administrators doubled down on DEI ideology in the 2020 State of Diversity Report. They attributed A&M’s shortcomings to the systemically racist A&M community. As they write, “problematic trends…are attributable to institutional practices, policies, mindsets, and cultures that persistently disadvantage Black students and sustain inequities.” Among the “systematic racist and discriminatory practices” that need to be dismantled are “innocuous-sounding words and sentiments such as meritocracy, legacy, color-blind, race-neutral, best-qualified, good fit and isolated incident.” These deceptively anodyne terms “have been used to establish and maintain racist and discriminatory practices and sentiments.”
The idea of merit itself, according to the Report, “masks ways in which certain groups have benefited and others have been excluded from access to networks and resources.” Color-blind hiring and admissions “mask favoritism, bias, and discriminatory practices.” Referring to a problematic event—such as the appearance of a speaker who doesn’t agree with the principles of DEI—as an “incident” (instead of as part of a system) is dangerous because it “implies that the occurrence is occasional, one-time, or an isolated event as opposed to an indicator of pervasive and systemic racism.” Anything that violates the norms of the equity regime must be scrutinized, and the racist motives behind it excavated, for the rot is always said to run deep.
The solution is to turn A&M into an institution that creates more leftist and anti-racist activists. “Pedagogy is the most powerful and effective form of activism…. We must all become education-activists. One can think of the 2020 State of Diversity Report as a roadmap for such activism.”
A&M’s DEI regime began with the claim that true meritocracy is inseparable from diversity, but it has ended with the claim that meritocracy is itself a racist idea.
The radical reality in the original DEI policies were quickly realized. A&M soon had more DEI administrators than University of Texas at Austin. Its DEI personnel spread to colleges, where more plans, more intense equity training, and more programming was “incentivized.”
Well over 60% of all A&M departments now require DEI statements for job applicants. DEI statements are judged using the Berkeley Rubric, which scores candidates low if they seek to “treat everyone the same,” while giving extra points to candidates willing to set different standards for different races and sexes. Search committees are encouraged to set a minimum score on the Berkeley Rubric for candidates to make the cut.
The ACES program has been expanded to what is colloquially known as ACES Plus, aimed at recruiting mid-career and senior minority faculty to A&M. ACES Plus only allowed under-represented minorities to apply for the program. Litigants have challenged the legality of the program under federal law.
DEI commitments have weakened A&M’s old curriculum. No physical fitness or foreign language requirements remain. History and political science requirements have been “broadened” from surveys in American history to narrow DEI classes like “Blacks in the United States, 1607-1877.” Science requirements now include “life science” classes informed with global warming dogmatism. A&M now has two required general education courses infused with DEI ideology: an “International Cultural Diversity” requirement and a “Cultural Discourse” requirement. This is not your father’s A&M.
A&M leadership continues to obscure its intentions. As one wag put it, the job of red state university presidents is to lie to red state legislators. The same DEI that exists at UT-Austin exists at A&M.
Only the Texas legislature and the A&M Boards of Regents might stop the DEI madness from strangling another university. It is already late in the game. The legislature should defund every DEI office in the state, prevent the use of DEI statements in hiring and promotion, and expand liability for violations of Texas and federal civil rights laws. Red states need more radical reforms, of course, but first they must acknowledge that the problem is indeed great.