Utah Signs Laws to End Diversity and LGBTQ Programs at Universities, Only Part of a Growing Trend

Recent legislative changes in several states in the U.S. are trying to end diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and LGBTQ+ support centers at state universities while the schools scramble to keep them open.

Changes in Legislation

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New laws in states like Utah and Texas are shutting down DEI programs, and LGBTQ+ support centers at state universities as part of a broader national trend aimed at rolling back diversity efforts. 

Sparking Debates

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Unsurprisingly, the changes that have been made have sparked significant debates and concerns among affected communities and advocates, particularly from the LGBTQ+ community.

Utah’s New Law

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Taking effect in July 2024, Governor Spencer Cox of Utah has recently signed a bill eliminating DEI programs in state educational institutions and government offices. 

Banning Initiatives

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Governor Cox’s new law bans initiatives with “diversity, equity and inclusion” in their name or any program that suggests a meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.

Closing the Multicultural Center

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In Texas, their new legislation has outlawed DEI offices, diversity hiring statements, and faculty diversity training, which has already led to the closure of the University of Texas at Austin’s Multicultural Engagement Center.

Closing of LGBTQ+ Centers

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At least three LGBTQ+ resource centers are set to close due to these new laws. These closures are part of the broader implications of the anti-DEI legislation affecting state universities.

Response From Universities

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Universities are adjusting to these changes by restructuring or renaming existing offices and programs in the hopes that they don’t have to make massive staffing cuts and changes as a result.

Changes in Utah State University

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Utah State University is already considering renaming its Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and has already phased out the use of diversity statements in its hiring.

National Trend

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Since early 2023, over 59 bills targeting DEI efforts have been introduced across more than two dozen states, reflecting a growing national backlash against diversity initiatives.

Governor Spencer Cox’s Stance

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Governor Cox described the law as a “balanced solution,” and it should repurpose DEI funding to support all students rather than simply eliminating the programs entirely. 

Not Following the Lead

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When discussing his decision, Governor Cox said, “I’m grateful to the Legislature for not following the lead of other states that simply eliminated D.E.I. funding with no alternative path for students who may be struggling.”

Shifting Political Climates

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 Despite his previously moderate stance on diversity and inclusion efforts, Governor Cox’s support for the DEI bill marks a serious political shift. 

Finding Student Success

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Cox said, “This bill replaces DEI programs in colleges and universities and puts student success centers in their place.”

Open to All Students

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“Those centers are required to be open to all students and keep diversity statements from being involved in the hiring process on campuses.” 

Impact on Students

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Advocates and students are concerned about the loss of specialized support services, seeing the closures of LGBTQ+ centers and DEI programs as a step backward in creating inclusive and supportive environments for marginalized groups.

Disheartening Response

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President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch said, “I am disheartened to hear Gov. Cox talk negatively about Diversity in Colleges.”

Public Reaction

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The public reaction has been mixed, with some supporting the legislative changes as necessary corrections and others viewing them as harmful to diversity and inclusion efforts.

Pivoting Too Far

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Senator Kathleen Riebe said, “I just am really concerned that we’re just pivoting too far away from being specific to the needs of individuals. I know for a fact that women that go to college have very serious concerns about their safety, where to get resources to succeed at the same rate as their male counterparts.”

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