The Scoop: Conservatives vow to end DE&I at universities

Plus: Stanley cup promo at Target leads to chaos; Peloton leans on partnerships in brand shift. 

Harvard University is just the beginning of a broader DE&I battle.

The resignation of Claudine Gay as president of Harvard was just the beginning, conservatives vow. 

An article from the Wall Street Journal outlined how conservative donors, lawmakers and activists are celebrating Gay’s downfall and planning their next move in what they see as a battle against “wokeness” in education, including diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America,” wrote Christopher Rufo, member of a conservative think tank who helped publicize plagiarism claims against Gay.  



Now on the horizon are calls from at least one billionaire donor to end DE&I outright at Harvard and draft legislation to defund DE&I programs at state schools, according to the Wall Street Journal. Couple that with the affirmative action Supreme Court decision from 2023, and it’s clear that diversity and inclusion efforts are under siege.  

Why it matters: Let’s be clear: Gay made mistakes in her handling of the fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict. She herself acknowledged that in an op-ed published in the New York Times. But it’s also clear that both her focus on DE&I and her race and gender made her a target for activists with a broader agenda than Harvard itself. 

This issue will not go away. Especially with an election year in the United States upon us, expect to hear more noise around this issue. 

Be ready now. 

Press your organization to understand how deep its commitment to DE&I goes. It was easy to make commitments in the summer of 2020 when everyone was fired up about racial justice — but it’s getting harder now. You must decide where you stand and what actions align with those values. 

Bring lawyers in now to understand where your program may be vulnerable to legal attack. And if you have people of color, queer people, people of minority religions, or other diverse people in positions of prominence and power, create a plan now. Identify areas where they may face bad-faith attacks and create a comms plan now to protect them. 

This issue is coming. There is no reason to be caught flat-footed. Prepare now.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • Stanley cups are all the rage. No, not the hockey one. This brand’s insulated cups are the hot new social media sensation and are causing Tickle Me Elmo-levels of shopping intensity. USA Today reported that a limited-edition “Galentine’s Day” cup sold out immediately, leading some shoppers to forget their manners in their rush for the cup. Now the 40-ounce tumblers, which retail for $45, are selling online for up to $200. Jenna Drenton, associate professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago, explained their flurry of popularity like this: “It created tumblers in new limited-edition colors, creating both scarcity and novelty. It partnered with influencers and leveraged existing online chatter. It moved the product from something useful to something aspirational. But all of this was done without compromising the quality of the product.” 
  • The U.S. economy is still red-hot, despite widespread malaise and a sense that things aren’t OK. Still, jobs data released Friday indicate the nation added a much-better-than-expected 216,000 jobs in December, according to Axios. It’s part of the ongoing complexity of a U.S. economy in which things feel different than they are. But these numbers could figure in the Fed’s upcoming decisions on interest rates, which could have big impacts. Stay tuned. 
  • As part of its push to move past being a pricey stationary bike company and to become an allover fitness company, Peloton has announced a partnership with TikTok. CNBC says the partnership will include both short and long-form fitness classes, live classes and partnerships with TikTok favorites. Investors loved the news, with Peloton’s stock price jumping 15% just after the news was announced. It’s a clever rebrand move from a company that has attempted to move beyond its pandemic highs into a more sustainable, inclusive model. Oli Snoddy, Peloton vice president of consumer marketing, told CNBC: “On the one hand, there’s a longer-term goal around changing perceptions around who Peloton is for to multiple different types of audiences and I think one of the real strengths of TikTok … is that it increasingly reaches everyone, including the younger audience.”  

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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