State Representative Tanya Miller: Disappointed with University System of Georgia’s stance on banning diversity statements in hiring

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may not have the success he expected in his presidential campaign, it appears some Georgia lawmakers are still all too eager to follow his lead and push for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education to attack. The finding: Dissatisfaction among educators in Georgia is growing, and many are considering seeking employment in another state, according to a recent survey by the American Association of University Professors. A brain drain will not only have a devastating impact on academia, but also on the future of the economy and our state’s growth potential.

That’s why I’m saddened and deeply disturbed by the results of this survey and by the University System of Georgia’s decision, announced late last month, to ban statements about diversity in hiring. Georgia’s strength lies in its rich spectrum of cultures, backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. This is particularly true in higher education, where freedom of thought is essential to the functioning of a democratic society and the protection of individual rights.

While diversity, equity and inclusion are moral imperatives, it is important that our state’s leaders recognize that they are also necessary for Georgia’s continued economic growth. Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the country. According to a report from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, “People of color could make up about 85 percent of new Georgians over the next three decades.” This has a profound impact on our state’s gross domestic product (GDP), which has doubled in the last 20 years, and to the jobs that will enable the next generation of Georgians to have an economically successful future. Ensuring diversity in higher education ensures that our residents not only have equitable access to education, but are also adequately prepared to access the economic opportunities that drive growth.

Unfortunately, we have seen what happens when states fail to break down barriers that hinder diversity and inclusion in higher education. In 1996, California amended its constitution to prohibit public institutions, including institutions of higher education, from using race, gender and ethnicity as criteria for employment and public education. As a result, admissions for every underrepresented group declined at public universities across the state. The number of Black and brown students pursuing high-skilled careers in professions such as medicine and law has declined sharply and is only just beginning to recover. And overall, it has led to worse economic outcomes for black and Hispanic residents. We cannot allow that here in Georgia.

Removing diversity as a consideration in our state’s public education system is short-sighted, pointless and self-defeating. Instead of being guided by the data, our leaders have chosen to model education policy after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his ongoing crusade against equity, inclusion and freedom of thought. Instead of doing what is in the best interest of all residents of our state, those in power have chosen to prioritize an ideological, partisan agenda. If this agenda is fully implemented, our state will deteriorate in everything from education and employment to innovation and economic growth.

As we move forward, we should remember that our diversity is our strength and that any attempts to undermine it are antithetical to the principles on which our great nation was founded. In the face of the rising tide of anti-American hate spewed by other Americans, let us speak out and strongly advocate for diversity, not just in higher education, but in all areas of our society. It is our duty to protect and preserve the ideals that have driven Georgia forward for generations.

As Americans and Georgians, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to freedom, independence, and inclusion, and stand firm in our opposition to all attempts to invalidate the essence of who we are. The future of our children and the future of this great state depend on it.

Georgia state Rep. Tanya F. Miller is a Democrat who represents the 62nd District, which includes parts of Atlanta, College Park, East Point and South Fulton. State Rep. Miller also serves as Vice Chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Democratic Caucus.