University of Alabama (UA) president Dr. Stuart Bell told members of the press on Wednesday that diversity and inclusion are still critical parts of the flagship university’s plan going forward, even after the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down affirmative action in university admissions earlier this year.
Bell delivered a press conference on Wednesday, a week before UA's fall semester's first day of class.
He said efforts to increase diversity will remain the same, and the university enrolls students from every state and over 90 countries around the world. He also said he believes diversity is an important factor for UA visitors.
In November, UA communications director Diedre Stalnaker told 1819 News that UA does not discriminate based on race in its decisions, so it would remain unaffected regardless of SCOTUS's decision.
In June, SCOTUS ruled in a landmark case that affirmative action in college admissions violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Affirmative action policies and programs give preference to particular minority groups, such as black people and Latin Americans, over other ethnic groups, such as white and Asian people.
Following the ruling, Alabama Higher Education commissioner Jim Purcell told 1819 News, “None of Alabama’s state-sponsored colleges and universities currently make admission decisions based upon race.”
Former president of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL) Matt Clark, who has since stepped down to join the staff of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker, suggested the ruling could go beyond admissions processes and affect diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and policies at universities.
DEI programs at universities and other publicly-funded bureaucracies have come under fire from conservatives who claim they do not fulfill their alleged purpose of promoting the representation of different groups but are rather used to discourage dissent.
UA currently has a Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI), headed by vice president and associate provost for DDEI Gwendolyn Christine Taylor, whose annual salary is nearly $300,000.
According to UA’s website, Bell “convened a presidential advisory committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion” in 2019 to create a “Diversity Report” in 2020 that “serves as a DEI strategic plan.”
The enhancement of “the recruitment, hiring and retention of diverse faculty, staff and administrators” and the expansion of UA’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion support” is still listed as goals under UA’s strategic plan.
Clark argued that the ruling potentially opened the door for at least the racial components of DEI to be deemed unconstitutional.
During the same press conference, Bell predicted that enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year would be another record for UA. UA reported a record-breaking 2022-2023 freshman class last August, although only 37% of those students were from Alabama, an even smaller proportion of in-state students than the previous academic year.
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