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Faculty senate reaffirms support for diversity and inclusion amid lawsuit

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The Texas A&M Faculty Senate met on Monday, Oct. 17 to discuss the ACES Plus program and faculty diversity. 

During its meeting on Monday, Oct. 17, the Texas A&M Faculty Senate passed a resolution endorsing diversity programs such as A&M’s ACES Plus Fellowship, designed to attract more underrepresented minority faculty. The program has recently been the target of a lawsuit by University of Texas professor Richard Lowery for alleged discrimination.

According to the Office for Diversity, the vice president for faculty affairs will allocate a sum of $2 million for the ACES Plus Program for the 2023-24 fiscal year. ACES Plus was designed to promote quality faculty coming to A&M and uses funds to provide 50% matching base salary and benefits, up to $100,000, to mid-career and senior tenure-track hires from underrepresented minority groups.

The recent inclusion of associate and full professors in the program has opened the path for Lowery’s lawsuit, who, as an associate professor at UT claims he could hypothetically be discriminated against due to an inability to apply for the fellowship on the basis of his race.

Faculty Senate Speaker and instructional associate professor of communication and journalism Dale Rice said in last month’s meeting, several senators requested the senate, in wake of the recent lawsuit, “reaffirm its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” Rice said the executive committee of the senate unanimously approved putting forth a resolution on the matter for the senate to vote on. The resolution, which endorses the ACES Plus fellowship program, was read by Janice Epstein, Ph.D., faculty senate secretary and instructional associate professor of math.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate of Texas A&M University reaffirms its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Epstein read for the resolution. “Be it further resolved that the executive committee supports the goals of programs such as ACES Plus that aim to diversify the ranks of faculty to better represent our state and our student body. I move approval of this resolution attachment.”

Mays Business School Senator and associate professor of finance Adam Kolasinski, Ph.D., said he opposes the resolution because he believes the ACES Plus program is racist and potentially illegal.

“There is some significant probability a court will rule the ACES Plus program is illegal,” Kolasinski said. “I don’t know exactly what that probability is, but it certainly is well above zero. Now ask yourself, how would it make this body look if we ended up endorsing a program that turned out to violate federal civil rights? If you are serious about supporting the ACES Plus program’s goal of moving the structural composition of our faculty to parity with the state of Texas, then we are effectively supporting the replacement of two-thirds to three-quarters of our Asian faculty solely because of their race. If you support this resolution, I ask you, which three-quarters of your Asian colleagues do you want to get rid of?”

Kolasinski proceeded to question if professor of mechanical engineering and Vice President for Faculty Affairs N.K. Anand, Ph.D., an Indian American, along with other white and Asian supporters of the ACES Plus program would be willing to resign in order to achieve a university faculty that more closely corresponds to Texas demographics. The ACES Plus program does not contain procedures for terminating current faculty.

“Is N.K. Anand, one of the architects of the ACES Plus program and an Asian willing to resign his position to bring about structural parity with the state population?” Kolasinski said. “This is, of course, nothing to say to all the white senators who support this program. Whites aren’t overrepresented on our faculty to nearly the degree Asians are, but they’re overrepresented nonetheless. Are all you white supporters of the ACES Plus program willing to step down so that we can move toward structural parity with the state of Texas? Somehow, I doubt it.”

College of Engineering Senator and associate professor of engineering technology and industrial distribution Angie Hill Price said that she disagreed with Kolasinski’s comments and supports the resolution because she believes diversity programs like ACES Plus are needed to better represent Texas taxpayers who fund A&M.

“I am almost speechless,” Hill Price said. “I think that that was extraordinarily offensive, but you’re entitled to your opinion and to your freedom of speech and I appreciate the fact that you have that. I absolutely disagree with the things that you said. I support this resolution and so I’d like to [point out] that [the resolution] doesn’t say that we are specifically supporting those programs, but programs that are things such as [the ACES Plus program]. I hope that we can help support our [diversity and inclusion initiatives] and support the coordinating board initiatives to be able to better represent the people of the State of Texas who are paying for our services and paying taxes to support us, and so I would encourage you to support this resolution.”

The resolution passed with 54 votes in favor and 12 votes against.

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