Bill to prohibit ‘equity, and inclusivity’ offices in Utah education stalls

Feb 24, 2023, 6:00 PM

A new bill in the Utah legsislature titled "Prohibiting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher E...

FILE: Former Associate Vice President for diversity equity and inclusion at Westminster College, Marco Barker speaks to the group as members of the Sugar House and Westminster community join in solidarity on issues and matters related to justice, unity and diversity at a rally and march on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill in the Utah legislature titled “Prohibiting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education” appears to be stalling before being heard. 

“What I’ve heard is that it’s going to be a study,” Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told reporters Friday.

S.B. 283 from Sen. John Johnson, R- North Ogden, would “prohibit the funding or maintenance of diversity, equity, and inclusion offices or officers in the system of higher education.”

Senate Majority Leader Ann Millner, R-Ogden, who is also a former president of Weber State University, said she hadn’t read the bill but acknowledged there were people who had lots of concerns.

“I think the sponsor is willing to look at saying bringing it out right now may not be the best timing and we need to kinda study this issue,” she said.

The wording of this bill has similar language to sample legislative text from the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

According to their website, “the mission of the Manhattan Institute is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.”

Sen. Johnson was also part of the legislature’s 2022 Ethnic Studies Commission, which met during the interim.  

Sen. Johnson issued the following statement to KSL NewsRadio.

“The primary goal of public universities must be to provide a rigorous academic environment where students can explore different ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of truth and knowledge. However, many stakeholders I have spoken with share concerns that the current DEI bureaucracies within public universities may prioritize promoting particular political or social ideologies over academic rigor and intellectual diversity.

“This legislation seeks to ensure that public universities remain bastions of academic freedom and integrity, free from any ideological coercion. The hope is to promote a more inclusive and diverse academic environment that respects all students’ and faculty’s individual rights and freedoms while providing funds for scholarships and opportunities to those who need them most.

“I recognize that this is a complex issue, and I’m committed to continuing to have thoughtful and open conversations with stakeholders to refine this legislation to best serve the interests of all Utahns.”

The bill has been placed in the Senate Revenue and Taxation committee, but as of this writing has yet to be put on an agenda. 

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Bill to prohibit ‘equity, and inclusivity’ offices in Utah education stalls