Missouri bill would end forced DEI statements in public colleges and universities

SB 1125 would forbid public higher education institutions from forcing anyone to embrace DEI or submit DEI statements.

‘DEI statements . . . [have] been used as a political litmus test serving as screens for professors who put a partisan political agenda above the research for teaching enterprise,’ said the bill sponsor.

Republican Missouri State Sen. Ben Brown recently proposed legislation in the state Senate that would crack down on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies at public colleges and universities in the state.

Senator Brown proposed a bill with the same measures in 2023 that did not end up becoming law. 

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Sen. Brown’s legislation, SB 1125, would mandate that no public college or university in Missouri could “[c]ompel, require, induce, or solicit any applicant, employee, student, or contractor to endorse any discriminatory ideology,” or force or ask any of the groups mentioned from providing a DEI statement. 

The bill defines “discriminatory ideology” as “an ideology that promotes the differential treatment of any individual or group of individuals based on immutable characteristics of race, color, religion, sex, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or ancestry.”

Brown’s legislation would also prohibit institutions of higher education from providing “preferential consideration to any applicant, employee, student, or contractor on the basis of such individual’s or entity’s submission of an unsolicited statement relating to a discriminatory ideology.”

SB 1125 also allows anyone who is forced to promote DEI, submit a DEI statement, or who is treated unfairly due to DEI principles to “pursue an action for injunctive or declaratory relief” against the offending college or university. 

Any school employee who violates the measures of the bill “shall be placed on unpaid leave for the next academic year and shall be ineligible for employment at any other institution in this state during such unpaid leave.”

SB 1125 passed through the Missouri Senate’s Select Committee on Empowering Missouri Parents and Children on April 30, and is currently awaiting a discussion and vote by the full Senate. 

[RELATED: University of Florida fires all DEI employees, eliminates department]

Speaking of the necessity for the bill, Brown said: “DEI statements are not designed to identify teachers who have experience supporting disadvantaged students. They’ve been used as a political litmus test serving as screens for professors who put a partisan political agenda above the research for teaching enterprise.”

Brown told Campus Reform: “Racial discrimination should have no place in Missouri. This is especially true in our taxpayer-funded public institutions. . . . DEI has been discredited again and again as a useful framework. It is, instead, a rigid ideology that opposes our best American values of equal opportunity, individual dignity, and equality under the law. Those values and high-quality public education opportunities open to all are the best tools we have to help disadvantaged Missourians advance and correct discrimination in the past.”