Kentucky Bill Targets DEI and ‘Divisive Concepts’ in Higher Ed

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Kentucky has become the latest state to target DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) efforts with a new bill that would allow employees and students to sue public universities and colleges if they face discrimination for opposing “divisive concepts.”

Senate Bill 6 outlines a 16-item list of such concepts, including suggestions of inherent racial or sexual superiority, claims that the U.S. or Kentucky are inherently racist or sexist, and ideas that promote “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating.”

Sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, the bill permits students and employees who allege they were penalized for not supporting these ideologies to seek damages ranging from $1,000 to $100,000.

“All of our laws, federal and state, are there to combat racism and those kinds of things,” Wilson told WKU Public Radio. “DEI isn’t needed, but because of DEI, it’s caused more division than unity.”

The University of Louisville is reviewing the new legislation, and the University of Kentucky (UK) is preparing to discuss it with legislators and policymakers. UK spokesperson Jay Blanton emphasized on Friday the university’s commitment to being an inclusive community that values open inquiry and the free exchange of ideas.

“Those ideas are not only compatible, but essential, to who we are and what we do as Kentucky’s university,” Blanton told reporters.

The proposed bill is one of the first pieces of anti-DEI legislation in 2024. Last year, Republican lawmakers introduced more than 40 bills targeting DEI efforts on college campuses, and two states, Florida and Texas, have effectively eliminated these initiatives at public higher education institutions.