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### Deconstructing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives on Ohio Campuses

How legislators can put an end to divisive, race-essentializing initiatives and safeguard the First Amendment rights of students


Campus DEI, which stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is often associated with spreading a divisive ideology and advocating for race-exclusionary policies. These programs draw inspiration from Critical Race Theory (CRT), aiming to reshape American society towards equality of outcomes, even at the expense of reverse discrimination, moving away from a color-blind meritocracy.


Diversity initiatives often involve giving preferential treatment to certain groups based on their skin color. Many DEI offices employ bias response teams to monitor student speech and conduct mandatory training sessions that prioritize judging individuals and society through a racial lens.


Equity, in this context, translates to equality of outcomes, sometimes achieved by lowering academic standards and showing bias against high-achieving groups. The Supreme Court has highlighted the discriminatory nature of using race preferences in admissions, especially when it leads to negative stereotypes or discrimination based on skin color.


Inclusion, as promoted by DEI programs, can paradoxically result in race-exclusionary practices that create further divisions. Today, numerous campuses host race-segregated student groups, spaces, scholarships, and events, deepening the existing racial divides.


  • Fear Among Educators: Faculty members often avoid contentious topics for fear of repercussions, such as offending students, facing investigations by administrators, or risking academic backlash.
  • Student Reluctance in Debates: Students tend to self-censor their opinions in class to align with the prevailing campus ideology, fearing lower grades or social repercussions. This self-censorship extends beyond classrooms to avoid scrutiny by bias response teams or online backlash.
  • Decline in Campus Atmosphere: Research indicates that as universities expand their DEI initiatives, both students and faculty experience a decrease in satisfaction with the inclusivity of the campus environment and their sense of belonging.
  • Academic Dilution: DEI’s focus on achieving racial equity can lead to pressure on educators to pass students with inadequate performance, resulting in lowered academic standards that compromise the quality of education.

70% of faculty members feel constrained in expressing their views due to potential backlash from students, faculty, or the administration.

69% of Ohio State University students admit to feeling somewhat or very uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor on a controversial topic.

Only 30% of Ohio State University students believe it is never acceptable to disrupt a speaker to prevent them from delivering their speech.


  • The foundational curriculum
  • Systems for reporting bias incidents
  • Faculty recruitment processes
  • Race-exclusionary organizations
  • Materials used in student orientations
  • Administrative offices at the executive level
  • Training programs for staff and faculty
  • Requirements outlined in course syllabi

AFPI’s latest research publication, “Reversing the Woke Takeover of Higher Education: Strategies to Dismantle Campus DEI,” outlines seven recommendations for legislators and governors to curb campus DEI influence, uphold free inquiry, and enhance viewpoint diversity at public universities.

Recommendation 1

State officials can request information regarding DEI programs, staff, and expenditures at public universities to gauge the extent of DEI infiltration and guide potential legislative interventions.

Recommendation 2

Lawmakers can affirm the importance of academic freedom and shared governance norms to facilitate critical discussions on theories like CRT while opposing the instrumentalization of universities for advancing radical social and political agendas.

Recommendation 3

Legislation addressing DEI at public universities should be precise, aiming to eliminate DEI statements in hiring processes, divisive mandatory training, and bias incident reporting systems. Additionally, defunding DEI offices operating outside the academic framework of the university can be considered.

Recommendation 4

Public universities can be mandated to uphold free expression and institutional viewpoint neutrality in their mission statements, governing bylaws, and academic freedom policies.

Recommendation 5

Governors should appoint board members with the expertise and determination to lead effectively. These appointees should not only support the truth-seeking mission of universities but also possess knowledge of higher education finance, law, fundraising, and governance.

Recommendation 6

States can enact legislation that bolsters free speech protections for students and faculty while promoting viewpoint diversity. For further insights, refer to AFPI’s compilation of model legislation.

Recommendation 7

Public leaders can encourage state universities to invest in race-neutral programs and evidence-based practices that genuinely foster student success, irrespective of demographic backgrounds.

For additional information, please reach out to the Higher Education Reform Initiative at AFPI.

Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny serves as the Director of the Higher Education Reform Initiative at the America First Policy Institute. Previously, he held the position of associate professor of political science at Morehead State University.

For inquiries, please contact Matthew Lobel, the Policy Analyst for the Higher Education Reform Initiative.