Alabama Senate Committee Advances Bill Targeting College DEI

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The Alabama State House. (Photographer Chris Pruitt via Wikimedia Commons)

After a 90-minute public hearing on Wednesday, a bill targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across higher education in the state of Alabama was approved by an Alabama Senate Committee.

Senate Bill 129 would prevent leaders from requiring employees and students “affirm, adopt, or adhere” to a “divisive concept.”

Laid out in the legislation, this includes notions “that slavery and racism are aligned with the founding principles of the United States” and “that individuals, by virtue of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, are responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same [identities],” according to the bill draft

It would also ban colleges and universities from requiring employee participation in any DEI programs. 

All state agencies and political subdivisions, including the local school board and public higher education institutions, could pursue disciplinary action, including termination, against employees if they knowingly break the law.

While Republican Sen. Will Barfoot, bill sponsor, argued that the legislation would not prevent the teaching of history, opponents disagreed. Camille Bennett, executive director of Project Say Something, a nonprofit dedicated to Black History education, said the bill would censor history, reports the Alabama Reflector, a local news outlet.

“How do a group of predominantly White men define divisive concepts? Were marginalized communities included in these definitions? Why does SB 129 choose not to explain why DEI is divisive? We still don’t know the reason,” she said.

The proposed Alabama law is one of the latest in a national effort to limit DEI practices at colleges and universities. Already this year, lawmakers have introduced 50 similiar bills in 20 states, according to a recent Associated Press analysis.

A number of anti-DEI bills moved through the legislative process last week, one of which is focused on preventing Kentucky institutions from requiring the statement of specific ideologies when seeking employment, job advancement, or admission, and bans the teaching of similar “discriminatory concepts.”

Nebraska lawmakers are currently reviewing two bills, one proposed to eliminate tenure and another which would ban DEI programs and offices. Indiana legislators also faced a contentious debate last week regarding Senate Bill 202, which, among other provisions, would alter tenure and promotion policies.