Following Trump’s Order, Universities Halt Diversity Trainings Containing ‘Divisive Concepts’

October 8, 2020 Updated: October 8, 2020

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning federal dollars from going to programs that teach “divisive concepts,” some universities have paused their diversity training efforts to conform with the directive.

The order, issued on Sept. 22, called for an end to federally funded, “blame-based” training programs that reinforce the idea that some individuals are “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” only because they belong to a certain sex or race.

“Such ideas may be fashionable in the academy, but they have no place in programs and activities supported by federal taxpayer dollars,” the order stated.

Citing the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr, the order described the “fundamental premises” of the American Republic as “all individuals are created equal and should be allowed an equal opportunity under the law to pursue happiness and prosper based on individual merit.”

“Today, however, many people are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual,” the order read. “This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”

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Students walk across the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 17, 2003. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Trump’s order has prompted the University of Iowa, a government contractor and recipient of federal grants, to halt its diversity training programs for two weeks. The university promises to use that period to examine the language or materials used in those trainings to see whether they are in violation of the order.

“Let us state unequivocally that diversity, equity, and inclusion remain as core values within our institution,” Liz Tovar, the university’s interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, wrote in a statement. “However, after consulting with multiple entities, and given the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding, we are recommending that all units temporarily pause for a two-week period.”

Similarly, Texas State University has also placed its diversity, equity, and inclusion training on hold, saying that the order “may ultimately require some changes” to the way the university trains its employees.

“Texas State University receives federal dollars in various capacities,” Denise Trauth, the university’s president, wrote in a letter to faculty and staff. “We do not want to jeopardize this critical financial support that so many in our community rely upon.”

Meanwhile, University of Michigan criticized the order, saying it undermines its commitment of ending racial inequality, expressing no intention to pause its diversity training.

“We are dismayed by an executive order that is a direct violation of our right to free speech and has the potential to undermine serious efforts to acknowledge and address long-standing racist practices that fail to account for disparate treatment of our citizens throughout our society,” UMich President Mark Schlissel wrote. “The university will continue to examine the implications of this order and speak out against it.”