LOCALIZE IT: States Target Diversity, Equity in Higher Ed
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Each of these words, taken individually, may seem laudable - even noncontroversial. These words, when grouped together, have become the new focal point in a cultural battle and political debate over the role played by race, gender, and sexuality within American institutions.
In many Republican-led state, governors and legislators have proposed limiting 'diversity equity and inclusion initiatives' at colleges and universities and in some cases throughout the government.
These proposals are a result of Republican efforts to limit the critical race theory. This is a view that racism has been systemic throughout the history of the United States and continues to maintain white dominance in society. Some lawmakers claim that initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have included concepts from liberal ideology or critical race theory.
Some say that such statements mischaracterize DEI offices which are located in most colleges and Universities. Campus DEI offices are often the frontrunners in providing services to students from different races, genders sexual orientations cultures, religions, and abilities. Diversity and equity are also considered by some higher education officials when accepting students, awarding scholarships, or choosing which faculty to promote and hire.
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More than 3,900 colleges and universities in the United States offer degrees. They are eligible for federal financial aid. Students can select from dozens of private and public institutions in most states.
There are many colleges and universities that have offices or employees dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion of students and staff.
Additional information about the role of DEI officers can be found at the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. It has created professional standards for chief diversities officers in colleges and universities. The association has also developed "A Framework for Promoting Anti-Racism Strategy On Campus".
In the past year, lawmakers in more than 12 states filed bills to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. These states include:
Arizona Florida Georgia Iowa Kansas Missouri Montana Ohio Oklahoma South Carolina Tennessee Texas Utah West Virginia
The Associated Press has compiled a comprehensive list of these bills with links and brief descriptions. This list only includes bills that are focused specifically on DEI initiatives and offices, and not on those that are primarily focused on critical race theories.
Most of the legislation to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives is based on the recommendations of about a dozen conservative or libertarian thought tanks who have developed model bills or provided guidance with legislators.
The scope of these model proposals varies. Some proposals would prohibit the funding or existence of DEI office. Some are focused on a more specific issue, such as prohibiting mandatory DEI training. Others restrict administrators' ability to request DEI statements of staff or students during the hiring or admissions processes.
These organizations offer guidance to legislators who want to limit DEI initiatives.
The Goldwater Institute in Arizona released a model law in January 2022 that targets critical race theory. The proposal included provisions that restricted the use of diversity statements, equity statements and inclusion statements in public education institutions' admission and employment processes.
In February 2022, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal in North Carolina teamed up with The Goldwater Institute to create a model bill. The bill focuses solely on the use DEI criteria for employment and admissions at public education institutions.
Manhattan Institute in New York released in January a four-part legislative package that would prohibit spending on DEI offices in higher education institutions. It also prohibited mandatory DEI training and officials from requesting or requiring DEI statements from students and staff.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression in Pennsylvania released a model law in February that prohibits public higher education institutions to base student admissions and faculty employment decisions on diversity, equality and inclusion statements.
Although they have not publicly posted model legislation, Cicero Action, a Texas-based advocacy group, and Do No Harm, a Virginia-based organization, have also provided legislative guidance regarding measures that restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Do No Harm focuses on DEI initiatives in medical schools and health care providers.
Suggested Reporting Threads
How do colleges and universities around you incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion in their student services, hiring decisions, and other aspects of campus-life? Talk to administrators and faculty members about specific programs. How much does the institution spend on DEI initiatives? And how many staff members are employed to implement them?
What do recent graduates or students think of the efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusiveness on campus? Do they feel that DEI initiatives have enhanced their college experience or made the campus more inviting? Have they broadened their perspectives on certain issues? How? Do they have any concerns or questions about DEI initiatives?
Does campus DEI extend to curriculum decisions? Or does it have an impact on the accreditation of certain degrees programs? In general, college professors have more freedom in the classroom than K-12 educators. Legislative proposals that restrict DEI would they apply to certain classroom theories? Do university policies encourage diverse authors, such as in reading assignments? Accreditation of a school, such as the medical school, is dependent in part on its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusivity.
What would be the impact on colleges and universities if you live in a state that has proposed legislation to limit DEI? Some bills would prohibit DEI initiatives completely, while others would only restrict certain things such as the training programs and asking professors for DEI statements when seeking promotion. Could local colleges continue DEI efforts in a slightly different way?
Does your state want to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion? While Republican proposals to restrict DEI have increased this year, some Democratic led states are moving in the other direction. These bills in Massachusetts or New Jersey, for example, would require diversity equity and inclusion efforts in state government. What other initiatives are being undertaken to promote DEI goals?