UofM suspends diversity training in response to presidential executive order

Diversity training at U of M changing due to to President Trump's executive order

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The University of Memphis announced Tuesday it would suspend Diversity Equity and Inclusion training for the fall semester in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order.

Executive Order 13950 -- “Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping” was signed by President Trump Sept. 22.

It prohibits federal agencies, federal contractors and federal grant recipients from providing workplace training to their employees that promotes any form of blame-focused training like race or sex scapegoating or stereotyping.

“Race or sex stereotyping” means assigning things like character traits, values, moral and ethical codes and other concepts to a race, sex or individual because of his or her race or sex.

In a letter to faculty and staff Tuesday the University of Memphis, a federal contractor and federal grant recipient announced it is prohibited from conducting training for employees that promotes any of that.

“A lot of the work that has happened since the late 1960s has been a result of diversity and inclusion training,” said Brittany Cole, CEO of Career Thrivers.

Cole is an inclusive leadership consultant who trains companies on diversity, equity and inclusion across the country.

“I think it’s important that leaders re-think not react, but really have an intentional response that still helps cultivate equity in the workplace,” she said.

The executive order does not place any limitations on the discussion of these concepts as part of academic instruction as long as it’s done “in an objective manner and without endorsement.”

Violating the executive order could result in the loss of federal funding for the UofM.

President David Rudd released a statement Wednesday evening, saying the university will continue working to end systemic racism despite the order.

Dear Faculty and Staff:

A communication from our Office of Institutional Equity raised a number of questions and concerns. Let me assure you that any work on equity, diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias, multi-cultural sensitivity training and our initiative on Eradicating Systemic Racism and Promoting Social Justice will continue uninterrupted. I am confident in our ability to continue these critical efforts and adhere to appropriate federal/state laws and all applicable University policies, while embracing a firm commitment to our core values.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to other local universities in the Mid-South including the University of Mississippi, Christian Brothers, Rhodes College and LeMoyne-Owen to find out if they were impacted by the EO.

We only heard back from LeMoyne-Owen who said they have not been impacted.

Tuesday Congressman Steve Cohen released a statement expressing his concern about President Trump’s Executive Order: “I am disappointed that the President’s misguided executive order has forced the University of Memphis to take this action. While I understand its concern that certain training could be interpreted to run afoul of the order, and thus jeopardize critical federal funding, the policy enshrined in the order is unwarranted, ill-advised and should be reversed. All public institutions should do all they can to advance tolerance and inclusivity, including through employee training. Trump’s cheap politicization of the issue is a not-so-subtle promotion of bigotry, and should be condemned. As an attack on the First Amendment, it is also a form of censorship.”

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