Conservatives have it right: Down with equity. Embrace equality of opportunity instead | Opinion

I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when DEI walked into my life in an email from my bosses at a previous newspaper company. At first, the demands of diversity, equity and inclusion were minimal. But then it changed. In hourslong training after an hourlong video series, I learned that someone in human resources at my company had smuggled in a benign-sounding replacement for equality that was anything but benign.

“Equity” as practiced in big corporations, university campuses, unions and government is about substituting mandated equality of outcomes for broadly-supported equality of opportunity — the equal treatment by race and sex mandated by the 14th Amendment. Equity segregates workers and students by race and sexuality in “affinity” groups while naming itself an enemy of racism and discrimination. It fosters enmity among colleagues and classmates while claiming to build belonging. It claims to fight “microaggressions” and ends up restricting expression.

And so it was that state legislators across the country began to look into DEI’s worst aspects. Among them, the idea that all prospective professors at state schools should have to pledge their allegiance to the DEI ideology before they could be considered for employment. Such forced speech has been addressed in legislation in dozens of states. Last month, the Kansas House passed a bill ending the practice of DEI statements at public schools. Last year, the University of Missouri ended DEI statement requirements after state legislators filed bills restricting them.

In California where left-wing outrages go to expand into parody, the state has gone so far as to require community college professors preach DEI’s pernicious principles in their classrooms. It has been rewarded with an almost certain-to-be-victorious First Amendment lawsuit by professors who object.

In Texas and Florida where the backlash has been strongest, governors have signed legislation banning state universities from even having departments devoted to spreading the DEI gospel. The New York Times has since discovered that universities love to be told what to do by their bosses in state government, so some schools in those states and elsewhere have decided to be cute and keep their DEI offices— they’re just renaming them

Florida State University is renaming its DEI office the Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance and Engagement. I am sure that won’t pass muster in the ruby red halls of the state legislature, which is also in Tallahassee. Being so close, they’re bound to notice the game.

But before the Legislature brings down the hammer, I think FSU might be part way to a really good idea. Every university should have a state-funded and mandated Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance.

Their job would be to root out the destructive race, gender and sexuality-based discrimination that the liberals who run universities, private and public alike, have salted their schools with over the decades when higher ed went from fighting for equality to embracing the DEI mantra of equal outcomes.

Women-only scholarships? No. Black-only graduation ceremony? No. Race, gender and sexuality-based advisory groups? No. Quotas for diversifying the professorate? No. Segregated diversity training? Also no. LGBTQIA+-only spaces? Also, also no.

Some schools would only require a single person in a backroom with a rubber “no” stamp to fix things by enforcing equality. Other schools where the rot has set in more deeply would need a small army of equality bureaucrats in scary black uniforms to stamp out all vestiges of progressives’ equity regime.

Conservatives shouldn’t just try to limit the spread of bad ideas — we should go on the offensive and expand our popular ones. The equality Americans fought for in decades past is one of them and the fight is not over.

Once schools are in line on the need for equality, maybe we could consider requiring corporations to replace their HR departments’ chief people officers with equal opportunity compliance officers to stamp out these practices in publicly traded firms.

The fight to get to equality is not all about saying no to the excesses of the left. Surely there are plenty of racism and other -isms to stamp out. Only this week, new research came out showing that some members of corporate America continue to discriminate on the basis of race. Opportunity compliance officers would be charged with fixing this, too.

Today, I work for a small nonprofit where we don’t have the luxury of wasting thousands of man-hours rooting out microaggressions like noticing a foreign accent or saying that America is a melting pot. For me, DEI seems mostly a thing of the past. I am sure more Americans would like to be done, too. Let’s bring back equality even if we need officers to do it.

David Mastio, a former editor and columnist for USA Today, is a regional editor for The Center Square and a regular Star Opinion correspondent. Follow him on X: @DavidMastio or email him at