In a year marked by heightened political polarization, conservative politicians across the U.S. led efforts aimed at dismantling DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives in higher education. In December, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents agreed to a controversial deal with Republicans, trading vital funding for staff salaries and construction projects in exchange for significant cuts to DEI departments and programming. Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt launched a review of state agencies and universities, targeting DEI positions and activities deemed “non-essential.” Similarly, the Iowa Board of Regents ruled that public universities in the state must cut DEI staff positions unless necessary for accreditation or legal reasons. These developments followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision banning affirmative action in college admissions, raising concerns about the future of diversity and equity in higher education.

Despite facing numerous obstacles, DEI professionals and advocates continue to demonstrate unwavering dedication to their work. For 2024, institutions and organizations are planning gatherings to share strategies for upholding DEI principles even in states experiencing heightened political pressure. These engagements are scheduled to take place across a range of forums, from dedicated DEI-focused events to sessions within broader conferences.

Prominent examples include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s 2024 Diversity Symposium in February and the American Association of Colleges and Universities Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success in March, both of which are centered specifically on DEI topics. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the Association on Higher Education and Disability will hold their annual conferences in March and July, respectively.

Additionally, smaller, focused discussions are to take place within larger national conferences. For instance, the 2024 American Association of Community Colleges will be hosting sessions on unconscious bias and culturally responsive affinity groups. Meanwhile, the 2024 Online Learning Consortium Innovate conference in April will include a DEI Symposium.

This unyielding commitment from various corners of the educational and professional community signals the deep-rooted and widespread recognition of the importance of DEI. As DEI professionals prepare for another year of impactful work, their collective determination to champion diversity and inclusion shines as a beacon of resilience and dedication.●

For more upcoming DEI events, visit our conference calendar.

This article was published in our January/February 2024 issue.