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‘Winning war on woke higher education,’ Anti-DEI efforts continue, some minority students struggle

‘Winning war on woke higher education,’ Anti-DEI efforts continue, some minority students struggle
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AUSTIN (KXAN)— “Winning the war on woke in higher education.” That’s the title of a panel on Tuesday that a conservative nonprofit, the Texas Public Policy foundation is hosting during its summit.

Speakers are set to weigh in on what they call a success ending diversity, equity and inclusion programs on public campuses in Texas, plus what comes next to maintain this. Senate Bill 17 went into effect in January 2024, allowing the end of DEI.

This comes as some minority University of Texas student organizations say the law is already negatively affecting them.

Katherine Parker and Kendall Washington say UT NABJ struggles with end of DEI. (KXAN photos/Timothy Holcomb)

“Is this really the fight you want to fight?,” Katherine Parker, a member of UT Austin’s National Association of Black Journalists said.


She and and Kendall Washington told KXAN their organization has been struggling since SB17 went into effect.

According to Parker, it started with this email back in December 2023, from advising and student support telling them about a delay of funding.

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This came after Parker inquired when UT NABJ hadn’t received funding as it should have in October 2023.

“There’s no like set list of what we can and cannot do,” Washington said.

This is disheartening for the UT NABJ members.

“We came here with a certain expectation of being, you know, supported and validated and to have spaces where we can be like, fully loved right and seen just like any other students,” Parker said. “So it’s very rough to feel like that’s changing.”

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UT’S Black Student Alliance said it’s also dealing with new funding issues for its annual trip to the Big 12 Conference.

“We had to basically cut more than half of the people that wanted to go,” UT BSA President Aaliyah Barlow said.

Barlow said in the past, there haven’t been funding issues.

TPPF will have a variety of speakers at its Tuesday panel:

  • Sherry Sylvester, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Dr. Walter Wendler, President, West Texas A&M University
  • Dr. Justin Dyer, CEO of the Civitas Institution and Interim Dean of the School of Civil Leadership at the University of Texas
  • Dr. Michael Poliakoff, President of the American Council of Trustees & Alumni
  • Senator Paul Bettencourt, Chair of the Senate Local Government Committee and a member of Senate Education and Senate Finance.

“I think what we’re going to see is a change in culture,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester said she hopes TPPF hopes to talk about approaching reframing DEI to make campuses more inclusive for all.

“I would say to students who are clinging to this strategy, has not achieved the goals that I think we all agree we want to achieve,” Sylvester said. “So, I would be stepping back and going, what about this activity? Is helping? Why isn’t it helping? What would work? It’s the questions we’re going to be asking.”

UT’S NABJ organization said they’ve also had trouble booking meeting space through their college, as they’ve done previously, and were informed the process has changed.

A UT Communications spokesperson told KXAN on Wednesday, any registered student group can apply to use general purpose rooms in their college through the Dean of Students Office.

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Parker and Washington say their organization has been meeting in dorm room meeting spaces, the last several meetings. The students say the new process takes longer than expected to get reservations approved.



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