The precarious balance of free speech and student inclusivity piqued my interest in President Eighmy’s Sept. 10 email. Then, UTSA announced the creation of its new Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIE) committed to practicing “diversity, equity and inclusivity.” I romped to the controversy as a free speech watchdog. The thought of an OIE evokes disreputable precedents set by Californian diversity offices, notorious for curricular political correctness and preferential policies.

The OIE distressed me for several reasons: it could threaten First Amendment rights, its objectives seemed ambiguous, it would further contribute to UTSA running over its annual budget and it was being established on an inconclusive basis.

I embarked on an investigation to determine the true basis and purpose of this office. I smelled something fishy, so I followed my nose and read two books, over 100 articles, emails, press releases, attended open forums for each vice presidential candidate and conducted multiple interviews. The investigation addressed my apprehensions. At this point, I do not believe the OIE presents any imminent threat to free speech. Judging by most vice presidential candidate responses, no office should micromanage student opinion as a political correctness factory.

It is true that the OIE cannot clearly define its objectives yet; once hired, the new vice president will assess the campus climate and blueprint strategies from there, focusing on student advocacy and retention. The Office of Equal Opportunity Services handles discrimination and legal recourse, while the OIE will foster a more holistic approach. Though an $18 million deficit materializes on the last public annual budget, it is not true that UTSA has an overspending problem. The apparent deficit is recorded in compliance with state law, and the budget office assures that the university keeps its spending, including the funding of new offices, within its budget. The basis for the office is more solid than I originally believed. The 80-page 2018 Diversity Survey qualitatively consulted faculty and staff, but not students. However, another comprehensive survey – unavailable during my research – was conducted last spring and included the student body. UTSA will publish it soon.

After all my questions received reasonable answers, I couldn’t smell the fish anymore. The UTSA administration welcomed my inquiry and heeded my concerns. I’m impressed with its vigilant stewardship of taxpayer resources, its keen transparency and its attention to campus opinion. Perhaps most exhilarating is how gleefully different UTSA is with its already-diverse population and its increasing admission and graduation rates. Personally my investigation acquainted me with new associates and ideas, and I count it as a delightful experience.

I’m sure student suspicions will inevitably arise again someday. If that day comes, and the administration composes itself as it has in the past weeks, with the kind of operational integrity it shows now, they should fare well. UTSA shines under scrutiny; in this case, it’s great to go fishing and catch nothing.

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