SD lawmakers put ‘diversity offices’ on blast: 'Taxpayers...would not approve'

A letter from South Dakota lawmakers to the state's board of regents advises South Dakota's schools to get their act together when it comes to diversity offices.

Lawmakers suggest hiring conservatives for these offices and hint at dissolving them altogether.

South Dakota lawmakers are spearheading an effort to dig into campus diversity offices, suggesting they are too big and cost too much money.

In a letter to the South Dakota Board of Regents dated June 12 and obtained by Campus Reform, seven members of the South Dakota House and Senate describe how campus diversity offices often have very pointed political agendas.

“While beneficial programs for Native American students, and students of other diverse cultures should be preserved, the build-up of diversity offices which are used to promote social justice causes associated with the political left such as safe zone training, the biannual drag show, and social justice training, to name just a few, should be dismantled,” the letter stated.

According to the letter, diversity offices at South Dakota public universities are budgeted $5.9 million for FY 2019.

Republican state Rep. Sue Peterson, who sponsored a campus intellectual diversity bill in 2018 and pushed state schools to adopt policies on the matter, said that the officers are not making too much of a difference, according to the Argus Leader.

[RELATED: Victory for free speech in South Dakota]

“Whatever they’re spending on the diversity offices, it isn’t making a very good impact,” Peterson said, according to the report.

“It is our belief that the taxpayers of South Dakota would not approve of this type of activity being funded with tax dollars,” the letter says.

The lawmakers’ letter suggests that the diversity offices become more “intellectually diverse,” suggesting that conservatives be hired.

Another suggestion the letter makes is that the offices should “shift from politically driven activity to education about cultural diversity and the benefits to all citizens of the orderly assimilation of people of other nations seeking better life in America.”

[RELATED: Diversity certificates turn Steel City profs into softies]

These lawmakers also suggested a more aggressive fix to the issue.

“It is our hope that the Diversity Offices and related programming will make the proper shift,” wrote the lawmakers. “However, if the current trend continues and Diversity Offices are not reformed...the legislature may be forced to explore options such as Tennessee has adopted that remove funding for these offices all together.”

Trevor Gunlicks, a recent graduate of South Dakota State University, spoke at an intellectual diversity hearing June 26 regarding this issue and told Campus Reform that the costs of these diversity offices are set to rise. But he does not necessarily believe they should be eliminated entirely.

“I do believe there is a role for diversity offices, but they should be a resource rather [than] social justice advocates,” Gunlicks said. “I will never disagree with the need for diverse view[s], but that has to be more than ‘they want everyone to look different but think the same.’”

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE REPORT: UC-Berkeley spends $2.3 million annually on diversity employee salaries]

“Intellectual diversity is currently not part of these diversity offices’ mandate,” he continued. “This bill would seek to find out if indeed that is the case and what exactly college students are thinking. As a conservative, I do not believe in what they are telling me and I should not have to fear losing my job or being socially ostracized if I do not believe what these diversity offices are telling me.”

Gunlicks told Campus Reform that he experienced some of the bias himself when he was a Resident Assistant at his school, and recalls the RA’s were given a “diversity training,” during which he says “we were given a presentation discussing how gender and sex are different and that there are numerous genders.” 

“We were taught that gender is indeed a social construct and that [that] is a fact not an opinion.”

Janelle Toman, director of communications for the SD Board of Regents, told Campus Reform that the recent hearing was aimed at feedback on how to implement the recently passed free speech bill.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10