Utah Bans D.E.I. Programs, Joining Other States

Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah signed a sweeping bill that pared back diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the state’s educational institutions and government offices — the latest state to take action amid the broader national backlash against such efforts.

The law prohibits any program, office or initiative that has “diversity, equity and inclusion” in its name or “asserts that meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.” It also requires student support services to be open to all students, outlawing efforts that focus on students of certain races or genders.

Since the start of 2023, at least 59 bills that would roll back diversity efforts at colleges, like hiring statements and mandatory trainings, have been introduced in more than two dozen states and Congress, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Eight have become law, including in North Dakota, Texas and North Carolina.

A law in Texas, which went into effect in January, outlaws D.E.I. offices, diversity hiring statements, and faculty and staff diversity trainings. The University of Texas at Austin closed its Multicultural Engagement Center last month because of the law. And an official said that the university would no longer fund cultural events like graduation ceremonies geared toward Black, Latino and Asian students, according to the University of Texas at Austin’s student newspaper.

The law in North Dakota, which took effect in August, prohibits mandatory diversity training at the state’s public colleges. It also bars requiring applicants for hiring, tenure or promotion to “endorse or oppose a specific ideology or political viewpoint.” A law in Tennessee bars making public college employees take part in mandatory training on implicit bias.

Despite leading a deeply conservative state, Governor Cox had built his brand as a moderate. His embrace of the D.E.I. bill represented a somewhat surprising shift, said Michael Lyons, a political science professor at Utah State University. (Mr. Cox also signed a separate bill on Tuesday that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their sex at birth).

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