Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt recently made headlines by issuing an executive order that significantly restricts the allocation of state funds, resources, and property for what he deems “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) initiatives within state agencies and institutions. This move aligns with a growing sentiment among conservative leaders aiming to refocus educational and institutional priorities away from perceived preferential treatment based on race, color, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
Governor Stitt, echoing sentiments expressed by other conservative leaders, particularly Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, underscored the importance of emphasizing equal opportunity rather than mandating equal outcomes. He emphasized the need to shift the focus from what he perceives as exclusivity and discrimination towards fostering an environment that prioritizes merit and opportunity. Stitt’s executive order is framed as an effort to depoliticize education, emphasizing the preparation of students for the workforce.
The governor’s directive specifically prohibits the use of state resources to compel participation in, listen to, or endorse educational activities that promote what Stitt views as preferential treatment based on race, sex, or other characteristics. Moreover, it bars loyalty oaths or requirements that prioritize certain demographics, ideological viewpoints, or pronouns disclosure. This stance is bolstered by Patrice Onwuka of the Independent Women’s Forum’s Center for Economic Opportunity, who asserts that discriminatory DEI programs on campuses have led to division among students, curtailed free speech, threatened academic freedom, and inflated administrative costs, ultimately burdening students with higher tuition fees.
Onwuka emphasizes the inherent contradictions in DEI initiatives, arguing that while striving for equality of opportunity, these programs inadvertently foster discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and heritage. Instead, the conservative perspective champions a merit-based approach that values individual aptitude, determination, and skills, rather than fostering a sense of entitlement rooted in victimhood.
The stance taken by Governor Stitt is praised by various conservative voices and organizations, including the American Conservative Union (ACU). David Safavian, the ACU’s general counsel, acknowledges the growing dominance of what he terms a “coercive liberal agenda” within educational and government institutions, particularly noting the sway of DEI initiatives. Against this backdrop, Stitt’s executive order is commended for its proactive measures to dismantle what many conservatives perceive as divisive, discriminatory, and ideologically driven programming within Oklahoma’s government institutions.
In essence, the conservative perspective applauds Governor Stitt’s executive order for safeguarding against what they perceive as the encroachment of DEI initiatives, advocating for a recentering of educational priorities on merit, equal opportunity, and the avoidance of preferential treatment based on immutable characteristics. This approach seeks to uphold legal protections against discrimination while challenging what conservatives perceive as ideological overreach in academia and government institutions.