Missouri treasurer: DEI reforms will cut waste and promote academic freedom on campus

Missouri taxpayers deserve to see their hard-earned tax dollars put to good use, particularly when it comes to funding higher education. As Missouri’s Treasurer, it is my responsibility to manage the state’s financial resources for the benefit of future generations. As the first person of color to hold statewide office in Missouri, I also feel a duty to promote hiring and programs that are based upon merit, rather than ideology or skin color.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs, referred to as “DEI,” previously seen at Mizzou, are often framed in the language of classical liberal values that many of us appreciate. Thankfully, UM System President Mun Choi eliminated the use of diversity and inclusion statements in hiring.

After all, who can be against promoting tolerance and acceptance? However, beneath the surface, DEI programs often promote division rather than diversity.

DEI endorses equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity, leading to differential treatment based upon skin color, sex or ideology. Additionally, DEI is not intellectually welcoming or inclusive. For instance, while I personally believe Missourians should treat each other equally regardless of race or creed, DEI has been explicitly hostile to this belief.

I am troubled by the recent Minding the Campus article that found evidence of how DEI had been used to undermine hiring processes at Mizzou. According to public records provided in the article, faculty applicants to Mizzou – such as a professor of biology – were required to submit “inclusion and equity” statements as a part of their job applications. These statements were graded using a rubric adopted from the notoriously progressive University of California at Berkeley. What’s more, the Department of Biological Sciences weighted these statements equally to the research and teaching portions of the application.

The Minding the Campus article revealed that at Mizzou, faculty applicants who expressed their desire to promote a fair, welcoming, colorblind classroom received the lowest possible DEI score. On the other hand, candidates who embraced political activism and supported growing more divisive and bureaucratic programs were awarded full points. This created a hiring environment where job postings carried an implicit message that only race-obsessed progressives should apply.

Under systems such as these, a strong political activist who is also a strong researcher but a weak teacher could beat out an applicant who is a strong researcher and strong teacher, but not a DEI activist.

This is characteristic of DEI programming. And it doesn’t belong in any school, especially in taxpayer-funded public universities in Missouri. Prioritizing race-focused activism is the wrong way to attract the best and the brightest minds to Missouri. It is the opposite of what attracted immigrants such as me to the United States.

We cannot allow politics to compromise academic excellence. In this country, anyone can achieve their dreams with hard work and an education. My life is proof of that. We put that achievement at risk when we prioritize progressive ideology over rigorous academic standards.

Recently, the University of Missouri System decided to no longer use diversity statements or the Berkeley rubric. I applaud Mun Choi for this courageous action and for his commitment to academic excellence. Spending on DEI programs undermines the university mission of building and transmitting knowledge, making such spending worse than wasteful.

Missouri’s students deserve access to the best professors, administrators and programs our campuses can offer – ones that prioritize academic excellence over radical ideologies.

As an immigrant, I came to America seeking opportunities based upon my character and abilities, not my skin color. This is an ideal that we must strive to uphold and fund. DEI programs, on the other hand, are divisive and counterproductive, and should be defunded in favor of programs that promote academic rigor and success for all students.

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