Proposed Budget Cuts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Could Slash DEI Office

The proposed budget would eliminate three full-time positions and reduce the operating budget of the diversity, equity, and inclusion office.
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  • The University of Nebraska system is currently facing a $58 million budget shortfall.
  • To combat this, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has proposed a $12 million budget reduction that includes $800,000 in cuts to its Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI).
  • The cuts would reduce the ODI's current operating budget by 71%.
  • UNL's chancellor, Rodney Bennett, who has been a longtime champion of diversity in higher education, is behind the proposal.

A proposed $12 million budget cut at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) could gut the institution's office for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

A detailed memo released last week reveals that Chancellor Rodney D. Bennett's proposal to cut $800,000 from DEI functions would eliminate three full-time positions, move several other staff positions to a different unit, and reduce the office's state-aided operating budget by nearly $173,000.

Currently, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has a total operating budget of a little over $1.1 million. An $800,000 cut would slash the ODI's funds by 71%.

The proposed cuts are part of a broader plan to tackle the University of Nebraska system's $58 million budget shortfall.

Bennett was brought on as chancellor in July, committing to using his position ... to move the needle forward when it came to diversity efforts and making all students feel included.

He has also previously been a champion of DEI in his former roles. While serving as president at the University of Southern Mississippi, he ordered that the state flag be taken down from all Southern Mississippi campuses due to its imagery of the Confederate flag.

According to Bennett's proposal, the restructuring of UNL's diversity office will allow the ODI to primarily support universitywide priorities and initiatives and focus more closely on DEI efforts within departments and units.

The university has no choice but to make difficult decisions to address a structural budget deficit, and we are proceeding in a manner that allows us to continue to fulfill our mission as Nebraska's land-grant and flagship university and remains consistent with our status as a Carnegie R1 institution, Bennett told the Nebraska Examiner.

Marco Barker, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, expressed his disappointment about the proposal in an email to the UNL National Diversity Advisory Board but said he understands external pressures that led to this decision.

Still, ODI will work to discern and reimagine the best strategies and structures possible to preserve and build on the progress we’ve made thus far, Barker said.

UNL is just the latest in a number of institutions that are defunding or eliminating their DEI departments and offerings. One week prior to the release of UNL's detailed proposal, Iowa's board of regents approved 10 recommendations to eliminate most DEI initiatives on public campuses.