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LSU scrubs diversity statement from website, renames inclusion office

LSU’s Memorial Tower on Monday, March 20, 2023, on Tower Drive in Baton Rouge.
Matthew Perschall
/
Louisiana Illuminator
LSU’s Memorial Tower on Monday, March 20, 2023, on Tower Drive in Baton Rouge.

This story was originally published by Louisiana Illuminator.

LSU has renamed its Division of Inclusion, Civil Rights & Title IX and dropped diversity language from its website.

In a message Friday to students, LSU President William Tate announced the university would be renaming its office the Division of Engagement, Civil Rights and Title IX, as part of a shift to focus on engagement across the system.

“Engagement is defined in several ways. We use two forms of the definition,” Tate wrote. “For us, it represents a two-way process that enables change on both sides. To fully deliver on the promise our flagship offers, we must engage with each other to exchange views and experiences and share potential solutions to our most pressing challenges. Second, engagement reflects a serious commitment. We must commit to find ways to translate our discoveries and talent to serve and elevate the state and its people.”

The university also removed the diversity statement from its official website, LSU.edu, although it is saved in its entirety on the Internet Archive.

LSU’s Division of Inclusion, Civil Rights and Title IX was a new creation under Tate. He merged the Office of Diversity with the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX. Tate oversaw a national search for its initial vice president and ultimately gave the role to former Entergy executive Todd Manuel, who has no previous higher education experience.

Spokespeople for the university have not yet responded to multiple requests for comment about what prompted the change.

Also removed from LSU’s website was a webpage for a lecture series at the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs entitled “Racism: Dismantling the System” that some conservative legislators opposed. Videos for the series that were previously posted on YouTube are now no longer available.

Changes were not isolated to the main campus. Similar language changes have occurred at LSU Alexandria.

LSU-A renamed its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to the Office of Civil Rights, Compliance and Access. Adam Lord, spokesperson for the central Louisiana campus, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Erin Smith, a spokesperson for LSU Shreveport, said administrators at LSU-S are currently in discussions about changing the school’s diversity marketing and programming.

Tate has been criticized for his handling of other diversity measures, including disbanding the university’s building renaming committee that had been reevaluating problematic namesakes on campus.

Tate alluded that such changes may be coming at an LSU Faculty Senate meeting in November. He assured members he would not back down from defending diversity but argued that faculty should not let language get in the way of principles and to stick to what is “legally defensible.”

“Some people use language as shorthand, and they never articulate what they actually mean as faculty members,” Tate said in November. “If we get into nebulous language that is unclear and allows you to be criticized, you probably will be.”

Tate shared a version of a legally defensible principle he had written to Faculty Senate members.

“We use evidence-based practice and policies including the disaggregation of demographic data to ensure access, opportunities, student success consistent with our accreditation standards,” Tate wrote. “We use evidence to determine how financial resources programs and practices are implemented to ensure appropriate accommodations and equal opportunity to succeed in our department school, etc. are realized.”

While some have speculated the timing of the changes meant they happened at Gov.-elect Jeff Landry’s request, both Rick Gallot, President of the University of Louisiana System, and Monty Sullivan, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said Landry’s transition has not approached them about the issue.