Arkansas lawmakers to probe DEI in higher ed

Sullivan is trying to abolish DEI offices statewide.

'The study being conducted is to find where DEI is embedded in policy and practice in state universities,' Republican State Sen. Dan Sullivan told Campus Reform.

Arkansas lawmakers will conduct a study on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies in higher education Sept. 25 to be completed at the end of 2024.

“The study being conducted is to find where DEI is embedded in policy and practice in state universities,” Republican State Sen. Dan Sullivan told Campus Reform

Sullivan, co-chair of the higher education subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, requested the study be done before introducing legislation on the matter in 2025, Higher Ed Dive reported

[RELATED: DeSantis admin claims universities ‘significantly misreported and under-reported’ DEI spending: report]

Democrat State Sen. Linda Chesterfield, a member of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus,  supports Sullivan’s push for the study. “I’m as interested as Sen. Sullivan is in finding out how we are doing as far as making sure that colleges and universities across the state are inclusive of all people,” Chesterfield told Higher Ed Dive.

The study should be conducted because Arkansas is “retrogressing in its commitment to educate its children of color and those who are impoverished,” Chesterfield told Campus Reform.

The University of Arkansas (UA) permanently closed its DEI department Aug. 1 and is sending the DEI resources to other departments, according to an announcement from Chancellor Charles Robinson. The university will give its DEI department employees job opportunities in the offices of Student SuccessStudent Affairs, and Human Resources. UA will also merge its Office of Equal Opportunity & Compliance with Human Resources.

[RELATED: University of Arkansas to dismantle DEI division]

“It is my belief based on my experience as having served as Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Provost – and now as Chancellor – that we can accomplish better outcomes by reallocating resources into these essential areas,” Robinson said.

While the University of Arkansas has eliminated its DEI department, Sullivan is trying to abolish DEI offices statewide. Sullivan attempted to pass Senate Bill 71 in January that would ban affirmative action programs and practices in state and local governments, state colleges and universities, and public schools, the Arkansas Times reported.

As of July 14, 2023, 40 states have introduced legislation that would prohibit colleges from having DEI offices or staff; ban mandatory diversity training; prohibit institutions from using diversity statements in hiring and promotion; or prohibit colleges from using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in admissions or employment, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

TexasTennesseeNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota, and Florida have enacted legislation banning various forms of DEI at publicly funded state universities.

Campus Reform has reported on the negative impact of DEI, from students not knowing basic history to not being prepared for the workforce. DEI spending does not close the widening academic achievement gap, reverse the historic drop in basic proficiency levels, and instill essential critical thinking skills necessary for a productive citizenry, Campus Reform fellow Nicholas Giordano writes. Instead, it feeds the lucrative industry