Utah universities dismantle DEI to comply with state law

The University of Utah and Weber State University are two public college in Utah that are in the process of axing their DEI departments and programs.

A Weber State official said the school will try to keep some DEI principles alive: ‘We’re taking the brave optimist approach and trying to do it within the bounds of the law.’

Two public universities in Utah, Weber State University and the University of Utah, are taking steps to end Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and positions.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill into law, HB 261, on Jan. 30 that forbids DEI training and other DEI initiatives in state public colleges and universities, as well as in Utah’s state government. 

Since the signing of the legislation into law, at least one Utah school has renamed its DEI department in an attempt to evade the ban. 

[RELATED: Two-thirds of colleges require DEI courses to graduate: report]

Brad Mortensen, President of Weber State University, stated that the university is dismantling its “cultural centers,” and also changing the vice president of DEI position into an associate vice president for student success. 

Weber State’s website currently lists five cultural centers: the Black Cultural Center, Pasifika Cultural Center, Pan-Asian Cultural Center, Hispanic & Latino Cultural Center, and Native American Cultural Center.

“Housed within the Centers for Belonging and Cultural Engagement are individual centers created to provide independent and dynamic interactions with the goal of encouraging and celebrating you and your peers,” the university cultural centers web page explains.

The school intends to change and combine all of these programs into one single initiative under the working name of “Student Success and Engagement.” Mortensen explained: “There will be navigational coaches and student engagement program managers who are open to all students, without an assignment to a particular identity, to really help make students navigate their college experience.”

Mortensen also stated that part of the plan is to continue implementing DEI policies as long as they do not directly violate the law: “I was challenged by one faculty member who said, ‘Well, how can you have inclusion if it’s invisible?’ We’re taking the brave optimist approach and trying to do it within the bounds of the law.”

For its part, the University of Utah will dismantle its DEI department on July 1. 

“With new state guidelines for diversity efforts on campus slated to take effect this summer, University of Utah leaders are working to modify the functions and reassign the personnel of the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” the school explained.

The president of the university, Taylor Randall, expressed his commitment to retaining a “sense of welcome and opportunity across our campus.”

[RELATED: Utah is the latest state to ban DEI programs in government and colleges]

Randall also revealed that some employees did not agree to the repurposing of their DEI roles: “A lot of our employees decided this wasn’t the work they wanted to do, so five individuals or five jobs have not been refilled. And that probably amounts to about $500,000 of savings.”

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