May 22, 2024 - News

VCU and George Mason to no longer require DEI courses for students

Illustration of a hand erasing the letters DEI from a chalkboard

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Two public Virginia universities will no longer require classes on DEI, race or racism this fall.

Why it matters: The decision from VCU's Board of Visitors and George Mason officials happened after an unusual request from Gov. Youngkin to review the courses' syllabi, which some faculty deemed political overreach.

Catch up quick: VCU students and faculty proposed requiring "racial literacy" classes as part of the core curriculum in 2020.

  • In October, a university curriculum committee recommended adding them, and 18 courses were under consideration as options students could take.
  • At George Mason, the process for requiring students to take two DEI-related courses — among 35 that qualify — began in 2021 with students pushing for it since at least 2017, reports the Virginia Mercury.

Zoom in: In March, a Youngkin spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed that the administration had heard concerns from Board of Visitors members, parents and students about the mandates being "a thinly veiled attempt to incorporate the progressive left's groupthink."

Now, George Mason will delay the requirement by one year and leave the decision to the incoming BOV members and provost.

  • The new members will tilt the Board toward being majority Youngkin appointees, which means future passage is unlikely.
  • VCU's BOV rejected the mandate in a 10-5 vote earlier this month with seven Youngkin appointees (the 8th was absent) voting no.
  • Four of the seats expire in June, giving Youngkin appointees a soon-to-be majority on VCU's BOV, too.

Between the lines: The courses are still available to students who want to take them.

What we're watching: In a George Mason BOV meeting this month, board member and Youngkin appointee Michael J. Meese said the governor's executive order about ending "inherently divisive concepts" in K-12 schools "also should apply to us."

  • "You should not have DEI offices or any other offices or any other professor that is promoting inherently divisive concepts."
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