DEI Ban: Utah Universities to Shut Down Safe Spaces for LGBTQ, Women, and Racial Minorities

In the wake of a new “Equal Opportunities” law for Utah schools, a number of notable state universities have chosen to shutter their DEI cultural centers. 

Cultural Student Centers Closing in Utah

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Some universities across the state of Utah are planning to shutter their cultural centers – including ‘safe spaces’ for LGBTQ, women, and racial minorities – in response to a new law partially restricting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus.

The “Equal Opportunities Initiative”

Image Credit: Shutterstock / f11photo

The bill, known as HB 261 or the “Equal Opportunities Initiative,” was signed into law by Republican governor Spencer Cox earlier this year. 

For All Students

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Microgen

It dictates that student services must be available to all students, and cannot specifically cater to individual groups based on “personal identity characteristics,” according to a press release on the matter from the University of Utah.

From DEI to Student Success Centers

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Southworks

The bill restricts DEI programs from “engaging in discriminatory practices” by requiring them to be reworked as Student Success Centers open to all students.

Multiple Universities Respond

Image Credit: Shutterstock / University of College

Now, colleges like the University of Utah, Southern Utah University, Utah State University, and Weber State University are closing various DEI initiatives and cultural centers in response to the law, which went into effect on July 1.

Three Centers for UoU

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Chad Robertson Media

The University of Utah, one of the state’s largest universities, has announced that it will close three student centers based around DEI: the LGBT Resource Center, the Women’s Resource Center, and the Center for Equity and Student Belonging, a center catering to ethnic minority students.

“Centralized Centers”

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

These three organizations will be reworked into “centralized centers” available to students regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexuality, the university press release confirmed.

Some Very Difficult Decisions

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

“As we’ve evaluated how best to comply with the legislation, I want to be clear that we’ve faced very difficult decisions,” said Lori McDonald, UoU Vice President for Student Affairs. “The law and subsequent guidance require a foundational change in how we approach student support, and we will follow the law.”

Some Remain

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Wangkun Jia

UoU will keep its Black Cultural Center building, to be rebranded as a “community gathering space,” and is planning a new Community and Cultural Engagement Center.

Weber State University

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Parker Covieo

Weber State University has announced the closure of the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, to be replaced with a Student Success Center.

Staff Will Still Carry on Their Work

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

With it will go the WSU LGBT Center and five other cultural centers that fell under the banner of DEI. However, the university maintains that much of its staff from the DEI office will continue similar work for the SSC office.

Southern Utah Responses

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Southern Utah University will also discard its Center for Diversity and Inclusion and LGBT Center. 

Utah State to Keep Some Centers

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Kristopher Kettner

Utah State University, on the other hand, has chosen to maintain its Latinx Cultural Center and has even announced a new Native American Cultural Center, pending approval from the state board of higher education.

Not Required by Law

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Jirapong Manustrong

It should be noted that the new law does not require these centers to disband entirely – instead, it legally allows them to continue with the same function, as long as their services are extended to the rest of the student body.

Some Restrictions

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

It also requires that these centers cannot provide academic and administrative support, particularly tutoring, academic counseling, financial aid support, etc.

For “Established Student Services” Only

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

These services must only be accessed via “offices of student success and support, or previously established student services offices”.

Shock for Minority Groups

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pressmaster

While HB 261 strives to provide equal opportunities to all students, there is no doubt that it has caused shock and consternation for minority individuals and advocacy groups, who see DEI and cultural centers as ‘safe spaces’ on campus.

A “Punch to the Gut”

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Tomoya Averett, the community engagement coordinator for UoU’s LGBT Resource Center, described the recent university announcements as a “punch to the gut.” 

A Second Home for Students

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jacob Lund

“We are just a lot of our students’ second home and an opportunity for people to find community,” she told reporters. “I’m hopeful that we’ll still be able to support students in a meaningful way.”

Education Commissioner Supports the Law

Image Credit: Shutterstock / aerogondo2

Geoffrey Landward, the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education, has spoken in support of the new law, saying it “preserves our ability to educate and celebrate different cultures, but in a way that doesn’t expose us to more criticism … without having to answer the question: ‘Why does this one group get a center and another group doesn’t?’”

21 Beliefs About the Bible That Are Actually False

Image Credit: Pexels / Pixabay

The Bible is one of the most discussed and debated books in history, yet many common beliefs about it are more myth than fact. How many of these misconceptions have you heard before? 21 Beliefs About the Bible That Are Actually False

21 Subtle Racisms That Are Commonplace in America

Image Credit: Shutterstock / AlessandroBiascioli

Racism in America isn’t always overt; it often hides in plain sight through subtle actions and attitudes. How many of these subtle racisms have you noticed around you? 21 Subtle Racisms That Are Commonplace in America

Only Legal in America: 21 Things You CAN’T Do in the Rest of the World

Image Credit: Pexels / Ivan Samkov

The U.S. dances to its own beat, especially when it comes to laws that make the rest of the world do a double-take. Here’s a lineup of things that scream “Only in America,” sticking strictly to what’s written in the law books. Ready for a tour through the American legal landscape that’ll leave you wondering if freedom might just be a bit too free? Only Legal in America: 21 Things You CAN’T Do in the Rest of the World

The post DEI Ban: Utah Universities to Shut Down Safe Spaces for LGBTQ, Women, and Racial Minorities Following DEI Ban first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / RodClementPhotography.