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Utah Higher Ed Seeks Compliance with New Law Prohibiting DEI

Utah higher education leaders are considering steps toward compliance with a new law, HB 261, that prohibits an institution of higher education, public education system, and governmental employer from engaging in discriminatory practices.

Katy HallKaty HallSuch prohibited practices include diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The bill, sponsored by Utah State Rep. Katy Hall, requires that universities expand “student success and support” initiatives once targeting historically marginalized groups to include all students regardless of race, ethnicity and other "personal identity characteristics."

The Utah System of Higher Education is expected to create guidelines for universities on updating diversity policies based on the legislative changes. The new law prohibits institutions from operating offices named diversity, equity, and inclusion and establishing or maintaining an office that promotes prohibited discriminatory practices, excepting what is necessary for compliance with federal law, state law, and certain grant, athletics, and accreditation requirements.

HB261 also prohibits institutions from considering an individual’s personal identity characteristics in determining receipt of state financial aid, including waivers, but excluding private scholarships.

Institutions, now, are required to ensure all students have access to programs that provide student success and support; to develop strategies to promote viewpoint diversity and establish policies and procedures to include opportunities for education and research on free speech and civic education; and to annually train employees on the separation of personal and political advocacy from an institution’s business and employment activities.

Additionally, the board of higher education must contract with a third party to conduct a campus climate survey, and it must monitor and report on compliance.

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