June 13, 2024

DEI legislation vote on dissolvement

Students walking on the campus of USU Eastern. Photo courtesy of USU Eastern.

Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is an organization to make students feel welcomed and included. Utah State University’s website states the mission of DEI, “We are committed to cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community where different perspectives, values, cultures, and identities are acknowledged, welcomed, and valued.” 

   The website also speaks on what the group does with those involved. “We shall collaborate, promote, and support initiatives that enhance equitable access to higher education, recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff and students, best practices in inclusive and interdisciplinary scholarship, develop educational priorities and learning outcomes that align with our vision and mission.”

   On Feb. 2, Utah lawmakers agreed on a bill to replace the DEI programs everywhere in the state. Equal Opportunity Initiatives, House Bill 261, was voted to pass with 60-14 vote. The bill is currently waiting for approval from Gov. Spencer Cox, who has previously stated to be in support of the bill being passed.

   When the bill is passed, no institutions in Utah will have DEI programs, but they will be replaced with Equal Opportunity Initiative programs (EOI). This program already exists in other places. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce developed EOI to create solutions to stop race-based gaps in opportunities. The opportunities have six key areas with these gaps according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is “education, employment, entrepreneurship, criminal justice, health, and wealth.”

   The DEI makes a goal to accept all the different values, beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, and identities which is meant to give every student the feeling they belong on campus. The EOI has the same goal of making students feel a sense of belonging on campus, but is focused on race-based challenges they face in the six key areas. 

   Those who voted against the replacement stated that there will be consequences with this change and that it will potentially erase a support system for students on campus. Florida and Texas were the first states to make this change. Iowa and Oklahoma followed shortly after with similar changes. The governor of Florida, Gov. DeSantis said, last October, that the DEI will be ended by legislation because DEI promotes dangerous political and social activism.     

   The bill being passed has been mentioned since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic spike. During the pandemic, there were a lot of employees that were laid off which did affect the DEI organizations. The other reason it was originally mentioned was due to the fear of potential discrimination lawsuits. During the same time as the pandemic, many Black Lives Matter protests occurred along with BLM riots. These events led to large name businesses like Google and Meta, making a commitment to the DEI to support the program. In 2023, despite those commitments, they turned against the DEI. Google and Meta no longer associate with the DEI, but will allegedly commit to supporting the EOI once the new bill is passed. 

   The Vice President Staff of DEI have been instructed to forward all media requests to Amanda DeRito, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, who was not in contact with The Eagle staff for a statement.

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