The University of Texas is a world-class university. Founded in 1883 in the shadow of the Texas Capitol building, UT was a place where opposing ideas flow freely on a daily basis. However, the University has failed to uphold this reputation and has left a portion of its past, current, and prospective students with a place that can often feel unwelcoming.
In 2017, the University adopted the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (UDIAP). This document outlines the plan to make the University more accessible and more diverse through the budget, leadership, committees, and monitoring through the Campus Climate bias group. Luckily, this last measure was disbanded because it violated the First Amendment. Ask anyone, and they will say the campus is very diverse. There is a fair mix of people from different countries, races, sexes, and backgrounds. However, these diverse characteristics are purely physical.
People who think differently, have different life experiences, vote differently, and do not all assent to the same ideology create true diversity. The UDIAP pledges to, “Review holistic admissions process to achieve a level of enrollment whereby students from underrepresented groups no longer feel isolated: UT Austin will examine best practices and provide recommendations for refinement”. Their goal is to help more people get admitted who might not have been admitted if it were not for economic or societal factors. However, once a conservative is admitted, the conservative usually isolates himself with those who share the same beliefs. Ask any conservative if the school has taken any steps to ensure conservatives have the same blanket of safety that every other student has; their answer will be a resounding no. The school supports and promotes various minority groups like LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities, and women, but the school doesn’t seek to give the same support and promotion to another minority group: conservative students.
In 2020, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found the University of Texas to be the 54th worst school out of 55 schools for freedom of speech. The foundation gives the school a red light warning in regards to free speech. To put this in perspective, Texas A&M has a green light. The University was only second to DePauw who reported that 71% of students self-censored their speech for fear of repercussions. An astounding 67% of UT students fear expressing opinions because of how fellow students, professors, or the administration might respond.
What can the University of Texas do to be more diverse and inclusive to all? Well, for starters, they can:
Adopt the Chicago statement on Freedom of Speech adopted by their Committee on Freedom of Expression.
Open conversations or debates on campus between conservatives and liberals, so students can speak to each other in a controlled environment without fear of retaliation.
Encourage the hiring of a mix of conservative and liberal professors, not just liberals, which make up the majority of professors now.
Promote the ideals of George Washington Brackenridge — the university’s great benefactor and champion of an educational process that is free of partisan politics and favored religion.
Create a committee on Freedom of Expression similar to the University of Chicago’s to study how to improve speech relations on campus and promote conversations on disagreement through debate.
The University of Texas at Austin is a great university. With world-class teachers, highly intelligent students, and huge endowments, our university should have no problem reaching its goal of diversity and inclusion. This goal starts by hiring professors who teach you how to think instead of what to think. If what starts here really does change the world, then the Office of Diversity and Inclusion would create a climate that allows professors and students to change each other’s minds.
A truly inclusive and diverse campus would support efforts to have conservatives and liberals communicate without being hostile to each other or having to hold back their beliefs for fear of a bad grade or losing friends. I hope that someday in the future we can look back on how much UT has grown from its current state and see it as a place where its ideas are just as diverse as its people.
If you don’t feel included on campus, then you can email the Office of Diversity and Inclusion here:email@example.com.