Utah anti-DEI law goes into effect

The legislation bans policies that assert ‘that an individual's moral character is determined by the individual's personal identity characteristics,’ among other things.

Legislation in Utah that curbs Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in higher education went into effect on July 1. 

H.B. 261, which was signed into law on Jan. 30, prohibits “an institution of higher education, the public education system, and a governmental employer from taking certain actions and engaging in discriminatory practices.”

The bill defines “Prohibited discriminatory practice” as a “policy, procedure, practice, program, office, initiative, or required training that: . . .  asserts that an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s personal identity characteristics,” “asserts that meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist,” or “is referred to or named diversity, equity, and inclusion,” among other characteristics. 

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According to the Utah System of Higher Education, the legislation will not impact “[a]cademic freedom,” “[a]cademic research,” “Classroom instruction,” or “Accreditation compliance,” among others. 

This June, to comply with the legislation, the University of Utah announced its plans to close its LGBT Resource Center. 

Regarding the bill, the university’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Lori McDonald, said: “As we’ve evaluated how best to comply with the legislation, I want to be clear that we’ve faced very difficult decisions. The law and subsequent guidance require a foundational change in how we approach student support, and we will follow the law. This isn’t about changing the words we use; we’re changing how we approach the work.”

Weber State University also acted by closing its DEI office, opening a “Student Success Center” to absorb the majority of the DEI officials. 

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“Though it’s a significant change, some things will remain the same, like Weber State’s commitment to making sure every student can succeed at the university,” a Weber State spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed. “Everyone comes to campus with different experiences, skills and challenges, and the Student Success Center will strive to identify students’ unique needs and help them reach their goals. This is something Weber State has long been known for—building personal connections with students and having a genuine commitment to their success.”

On July 1, Utah started a hotline to enforce the anti-DEI legislation, allowing callers to expose violations of the new law. 

Campus Reform has reached out to the University of Utah and Weber State University for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.