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Utah lawmakers pass bill banning DEI at public colleges

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Dive Brief:

  • Utah House lawmakers Friday approved final changes to a sweeping bill that would effectively eliminate public colleges’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, one of the last key steps before it heads to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk.
  • The legislation would replace campus DEI centers with broader “success and support” centers accessible to all students. Any programs bearing the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” would be considered discriminatory and prohibited. The bill would implement similar bans throughout the state’s K-12 schools.
  • Following a final signature from the state Senate president, Cox is expected to sign the bill into law. It would take effect July 1.

Dive Insight:

Utah’s proposal is one of the most wide-reaching pieces of anti-DEI legislation in the country, resembling laws passed in Florida and Texas last year that banned DEI efforts at public colleges. All three states have Republican trifectas, with Utah Republicans controlling both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion since 1985.

The bill would ban colleges from requiring staff and student trainings that promote “differential treatment” or that teach certain concepts, such as that individuals are inherently privileged or oppressed based on their personal identity characteristics. The legislation leaves room for federally required DEI programming.

Additionally, hiring managers and admissions officers could not ask about candidates’ views on topics like implicit bias, critical race theory, intersectionality and racial privilege.

The state Senate on Thursday amended the bill’s language, changes the House approved the next day.  

An amendment approved this week would protect private scholarships, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The publication said the move appears to shield some tuition waivers for Native American students, though questions remain on the bill’s full impact.

State senators also added language protecting an agreement between the University of Utah and the Ute Tribe to continue offering support services to its students and parents.

Utah Republicans fast-tracked the bill, which went from being introduced to passing both chambers in just two weeks.

State legislation opposing DEI often uses broad language that can leave college employees unsure of what will be permitted under the law. 

Still, at least one college already began changing their policies prior to Friday’s vote. Earlier this month, following pressure from state leaders, the University of Utah said it would eliminate diversity questions and statements from its hiring process.



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