West Virginia bill would end DEI bureaucracy in public higher ed

The bill is intended, according to its sponsor, 'to ensure that a lot of the woke ideology that has crept into our public colleges and universities…comes to an end.'

The bill would prohibit requiring diversity statements in hiring processes, as well as a number of other DEI-related initiatives.

A bill has been introduced into the West Virginia House of Delegates aimed at curtailing various diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in public higher education across the state.

Delegate Chris Pritt introduced the bill, designated “Bill 3503” (HB3503), to the House Committee on Education on Tuesday.

HB3503, Pritt told Campus Reformis intended “to ensure that a lot of the woke ideology that has crept into our public colleges and universities…comes to an end.”

The bill prohibits requiring diversity statements in admissions and hiring processes and forbids colleges and universities from “[giving] preferential consideration to an applicant… due to any opinion expressed or action taken in support of” protected minority groups.

Diversity statements, wherein academic job applicants describe how they would contribute to the values of “diversity” and “inclusion” at the college or university in question, have become a pervasive requirement in higher education hiring practices around the country.

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HB3503 also stipulates that public higher education institutions must be “officially neutral with regard to widely contested opinions,” citing critical race theory (CRT), transgender ideology, microaggressions, and anti-racism, among other hot-button topics.

Critics of restricting DEI-related initiatives in higher education, such as John Warner in a recent Inside Higher Ed piece, call such measures an “assault on public institutions and academic freedom.”

Pritt, however, disagrees, arguing that such legislation positively protects academic freedom by ensuring students are not “indoctrinated” into a single point of view.

“I think it’s important that we have carefully crafted legislation that ensures that we have academic freedom,” he emphasized to Campus Reform, “and…that’s what this bill does. It ensures that, for example, student groups, academic research, teaching, none of that’s going to be impacted with this legislation.”

Instead, Pritt says that the bill “ensures that we’re not going to have indoctrination and we’re not going to have discrimination” at the administrative level.

The text of the bill also states that it should not be misinterpreted as to “[l]imit the academic freedom of any individual faculty member.”

“We should have policies that are going to be promoting students thinking for themselves and I think this bill properly balances all of that,” contends Pritt.

[RELATED: Oklahoma official demands to know ‘every dollar’ public universities spend on DEI]

Campus Reform has extensively covered how other states have been putting pressure on universities to limit DEI programming through investigations and legislation, such as in Florida and Oklahoma

Pritt says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of his bill. Although it was introduced late in the session, “it’s activated a lot of activists here in West Virginia. People were making calls [and] people are getting pretty excited about it,” Pritt told Campus Reform.

All relevant parties were contacted for comment. This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.