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LSU says it scrubbed diversity statement due to age

LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge in November 2021.
Aubry Procell
LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge in November 2021.

This story was originally published by Louisiana Illuminator.

LSU removed its diversity statement from its website because it was from a previous administration, a university spokesperson said.

The statement (read below) was abruptly removed from its website Friday, when the university also announced it was dropping the term “inclusion” from its Division of Inclusion, Civil Rights & Title IX. The office is now the Division of Engagement, Civil Rights and Title IX.

The original statement is saved in its entirety on the Internet Archive.

“The diversity statement you referenced was from a past administration and had not been updated for many years,” LSU spokesperson Todd Woodward said in a statement to the Illuminator. “If you visit the Division of Engagement, Civil Rights and Title IX’s website… you will see our updated commitment that reflects our enduring commitment to equal opportunity and access for all.”

The commitment statement Woodward referenced is at the top of the new website. It makes no reference to diversity or eliminating bias and excludes language that makes reference to LSU’s problematic past.

LSU, built on the site of a former slave plantation, has a tumultuous record on inclusion. Several buildings on campus are named after problematic figures, including a former governor who participated in a lynching. LSU President William Tate quietly disbanded a committee considering renaming said buildings after he took office, The Reveille reported. The university has also been in the national spotlight in recent years for its mishandling of Title IX cases.

“We believe that engagement is essential for creating a vibrant and enriching university experience,” the website now reads. “We strive to provide equal opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, ensuring that everyone has the chance to thrive and succeed. Our commitment extends to creating a safe and accessible campus, where individuals can feel secure and supported in their pursuit of knowledge and personal growth. Above all, we prioritize excellence in all aspects of our work, aiming to uphold the highest standards of education, research, and service.”

Woodward said the focus on opportunity and engagement will be a major point in LSU’s new strategic plan, which has laid unfinished since the university’s dedicated strategy chief left his job in August.

“As we develop the university’s new strategic plan, President Tate has strengthened our focus on equal opportunity and engagement, specifically as they relate to 1) leadership development, 2) career readiness and workforce development, 3) first year experience, college readiness and mentoring, and 4) health, safety and wellness,” Woodward wrote.

The use of the term “equal opportunity” is in line with Tate’s push toward “legally defensible principles,” which he first publicly addressed at a Faculty Senate meeting in November.

“Some people use language as shorthand, and they never articulate what they actually mean as faculty members,” Tate said at the time. “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 with 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 removing the diversity language and renaming the Division of Inclusion came as a surprise to many in the university community, Woodward said the changes had been in the works “for a while.”

When asked for more context as to why Tate wanted to rename the department, Woodward responded, “The President’s letter clearly outlines the reasons for the change in name of the department. Is that what you are asking? On the page it clearly states: We strive to provide equal opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, ensuring that everyone has the chance to thrive and succeed.”

“Is that not inclusive?” Woodward added.

LSU’s previous diversity statement

We believe diversity, equity, and inclusion enrich the educational experience of our students, faculty, and staff, and are necessary to prepare all people to thrive personally and professionally in a global society. Therefore, LSU is firmly committed to an environment that affords respect to all members of our community. We will work to eliminate barriers that any members of our community experience.

To make LSU a place where that can happen, we must recognize and reflect on the inglorious aspects of our history. We now acknowledge the need to confront the ways racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, LGBTQ+ phobia, intolerance based on religion or on national origin, and all forms of bias and exploitation have shaped our everyday lives.

We accept personal and professional responsibility to eliminate bias and oppression wherever they are found. We understand our obligation to speak up when we see bias whether it be in our teaching, study, or daily work. Our community will educate themselves proactively and continuously about how to intervene and bring bias to the attention of others with commitment and compassion.

We will hold ourselves accountable for our actions and inactions, and for maintaining intentional, measurable, and meaningful efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion, including through ongoing evaluation of our policies, practices, and procedures.

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