Higher Education

Jonathan Small | January 2, 2024

OSU president Kayse Shrum in denial

Jonathan Small

Gov. Kevin Stitt took an important step when he recently issued an executive order targeting so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) positions at Oklahoma colleges by banning the use of state taxpayer funds for DEI to the extent those bureaucrats and programs treat people differently based on race.

Regrettably, one prominent college leader responded with denial—or, in the most charitable interpretation, self-delusion.

Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum responded to Stitt’s order by declaring that “an initial review indicates that no significant changes to our processes or practices are needed.”

But numerous examples of DEI-style nonsense abound at OSU.

A 2021 report by the Heritage Foundation showed that OSU had more DEI-dedicated personnel (26) than history professors (17).

OSU is currently facing a lawsuit over the university’s harassment, computer, and bias-incident policies, which plaintiffs say violate students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. OSU’s bias policy allows students to be punished for comments in class, including “incorrect name or pronoun usage.”

In 2022, the OSU Writing Center sought undergraduate tutors to serve as “Antiracist Cluster Hires.” “Antiracism” notoriously posits that an endless cycle of racial discrimination is required to address past racial discrimination.

Other job postings have been similarly troubling due to the blatant ideological slant required of job applicants, including everything from positions in plant physiology to psychology.

OSU is one of 12 Oklahoma colleges and universities accused in a federal civil-rights complaint of having programs that exclude students based on race.

The OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs decided to “celebrate LGBTQ Pride” last year by hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour “geared towards ages 2-8.” An OSU diversity-training program taught students that “gender is a large spectrum and does not only include male and female.”

And the list goes on.

Poisonous DEI doctrines—racist, collectivist, and antithetical to reason and biology—do not complement the mission and values of any Oklahoma public college. So why do prominent state college officials pretend otherwise or act as though DEI is not present at state colleges? Because those leaders face little real consequences for misleading the public.

It’s time lawmakers changed that dynamic.

State legislators must explicitly ban viewpoint discrimination in hiring at Oklahoma colleges and allow for a private cause of action—with attorneys’ fees and punitive damages allowed for winning plaintiffs—for any student or staff member who faces illegal discrimination at schools because of DEI radicalism.

Currently, Oklahoma college officials think they can ignore public sentiment (while still demanding ever-increasing state subsidies and higher tuition from the public) without consequence.

If we want college leaders to stop the subterfuge and start listening to the taxpayers, making them personally liable for their actions will go a long way.

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit]

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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