Kentucky Attorney General Argues Against DEI Policies

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Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC

Kentucky’s ongoing debate over DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies in public universities recently gained momentum with the issuance of an opinion by Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman. The opinion, released on Thursday, has significant implications for how state-funded postsecondary institutions in Kentucky approach admissions and funding allocation.

In his opinion, Coleman cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 decision which struck down affirmative action. He argued that using race-based metrics such as “underrepresented minorities” to determine enrollment targets violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act.

Coleman’s opinion was solicited by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, who sponsored one of two bills targeting DEI on Kentucky college campuses. The opinion itself holds no immediate legal weight but serves to signal Coleman’s stance on the matter.

At issue is that Kentucky employs a performance-based funding model for its public universities, which considers various metrics including the number of degrees earned by minority and low-income students. However, Coleman’s opinion challenges the use of race as a defining factor in this model.

Underrepresented minorities, as currently defined in Kentucky, encompass individuals identifying as Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or two or more races. Coleman argues that focusing solely on race for diversity initiatives perpetuates inequality rather than fostering equality.

Despite his critique, Coleman emphasizes that other factors, such as socioeconomic background and first-generation college status, can still be considered in admissions. He suggests a shift towards a more holistic approach that treats each applicant as an individual.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens (R), expressed confidence in adjusting the funding model to address concerns raised by Coleman’s opinion. He aims to modify the model to support disadvantaged demographics without relying on race as a primary criterion.

Meanwhile, universities in Kentucky are grappling with proposed legislation targeting DEI practices. Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 9 seek to limit DEI initiatives in campus settings, prompting responses from university leaders reaffirming their commitment to diversity.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto voiced opposition to the proposed legislation, emphasizing the importance of fostering an inclusive educational environment while engaging in constructive dialogue.