Proposed laws targeting DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives and curriculum in higher education are widespread throughout the country. Over 30 anti-DEI bills have been introduced since April 17. As the proposed laws move through the legislative system, one has received final approval as of press time.
On April 6, a budget bill in Kansas was approved that prohibits public universities from spending funds that require anyone to endorse or support DEI on campus. The legislation also stops state universities from requiring students, employees, and job applicants to affirm or support DEI in a statement. The state’s Democratic governor may yet veto the provision, reports The Kansas City Star.
After heated debates among lawmakers in South Carolina regarding DEI funding, House Bill 4290 and House Bill 4289 were introduced on April 6, which targets diversity statements, would require public state colleges to submit annual reports on DEI spending, and seeks to ban mandatory diversity training.
A number of anti-DEI bills were introduced in March. One of seven proposed Texas laws would eliminate DEI offices and positions altogether at the state’s public colleges. Alabama legislators introduced a bill that would prohibit the promotion and affirmation of “divisive concepts” relating to race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin at state public institutions.
In the same month, an extensive Ohio bill was introduced that would ban state public colleges from instituting mandatory diversity training and hiring statements, prevent diversity office funding, stop donations from recipients in China, require public colleges to institute new post-tenure review policies and mission statements, require all course syllabi to be posted online, and institute a mandatory history reading list for students.
Students, faculty, staff, and other advocates vow to continue DEI work vital to the campus mission and are pushing back against attacks on academic freedom. Several protests have been organized against the proposed legislation including ones held at the Texas Capitol in April.
PEN America, in collaboration with Campus Compact, recently announced the Champions of Higher Education campaign, which brings together over 100 former college and university leaders to fight against censorious legislation that restricts what can be taught in the classroom. Former presidents and system heads are working to rally support and reconfirm faith in higher education institutions, according to the campaign’s statement.
Eight Black-led legacy civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund, endorsed the Freedom to Learn Campaign, which is a movement created to fight against the erasure of history and lived experiences of marginalized communities, and promote critical race theory and equitable legislation in K-12 and higher education.
Although Senate Bill 266 and House Bill 999 threaten to expand anti-DEI goals in the state of Florida, references to DEI were removed from the former bill by legislators due to concerns of endangered accreditation standards for higher education programs, according to the Miami Herald. The proposed legislation would still ensure that teachings don’t dive into theories related to systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege in the country and would change hiring and accreditation protocols.
In March, a preliminary injunction was reaffirmed by the federal appeals court, temporarily blocking Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act from affecting the state’s colleges and universities. The bill bans Florida K-12 public educators from teaching about a person’s status as privileged or oppressed as it relates to their race, sex, or national origin, and has been intact since it was signed in 2022.●
This article was published in our May 2023 issue.
For additional coverage on recent anti-DEI legislation, visit insightintodiversity.com/waronDEI.