Alabama Passes Anti-DEI Law: How it Will Affect State Colleges and Universities

The law dismantles diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices, prohibits public colleges and universities from sponsoring and endorsing DEI events, and requires bathrooms for individuals based on "biological sex."
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Published on March 22, 2024
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  • The bill goes into effect Oct. 1.
  • It prevents schools from affirming "certain divisive concepts," including that anyone should accept, acknowledge, or affirm a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize based on their race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
  • A civil rights group came out with a statement against the law.

Alabama's governor just signed an anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bill into law that will dismantle and ban DEI offices at "certain public entities."

SB129 prohibits public colleges and universities from hosting DEI offices and promoting, endorsing, and affirming "certain divisive concepts" in public settings. It will also require these institutions to have assigned bathrooms based on "biological sex."

Republican state Sen. Will Barfoot introduced the bill Feb. 20, and it was passed by the state Senate just two days after its introduction. An amended version was passed by the state House a short time later. The bill goes into effect Oct. 1. It's the latest anti-DEI bill to be signed into law, following six other states to do so.

"My administration has and will continue to value Alabama's rich diversity, however, I refuse to allow a few bad actors on college campuses — or wherever else for that matter — to go under the acronym of DEI, using taxpayer funds, to push their liberal political movement counter to what the majority of Alabamians believe," Gov. Kay Ivey said on March 20 in a statement to news outlets.

The bill restricts colleges from:

  • Having a DEI office
  • Sponsoring any DEI events by students, faculty, and organizations
  • Requiring students, faculty, or contractors to participate in DEI training

The bill says divisive concepts discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, including suggesting that:

  • Any demographic is inherently superior or inferior
  • Anyone should be discriminated against based on their demographic
  • Demographics determine an individual's moral character
  • Someone is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, consciously or subconsciously, because of their demographic
  • Individuals of any demographic are responsible for past actions of that demographic
  • Anyone should accept, acknowledge, or affirm a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize based on their demographic

The Alabama law will permit DEI training to satisfy accreditation requirements. It also will allow state agencies to promote racial, cultural, or ethnic diversity or inclusiveness as long as it complies with other parts of the bill.

The bill won't prevent students, staff, or faculty organizations from hosting DEI programs or discussions. If the program or event does have a sponsor, the organization must name the sponsor and name them on advertisements.

The Community Responds to Anti-DEI Law

The University of Alabama sent a statement to students in response to SB129 on Tuesday, according to The Crimson White, the university's independent student newspaper.

"The University of Alabama System and each of its institutions are dedicated to our mission of providing exceptional educational, research, and patient care experiences to all people, of all backgrounds, in welcoming and supportive environments that foster open thought, academic freedom, and free expression. This priority will remain," the statement said.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson also released a statement responding to the new law.

"Today, the Alabama government has failed our children. The ongoing assault on diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of an anti-Black agenda that seeks to revert our nation back to a time where Black students and teachers were denied adequate access to the classroom. We refuse to go back," Johnson said.

"As we have for centuries, it's time for our community to band together and use our collective power to correct the course of justice. This fight is far from over. What side of history will you be on?"

Last week, the NAACP released a letter urging Black athletes to stay away from Florida's public predominantly white colleges and universities because of its anti-DEI laws. Two weeks earlier, the University of Florida had closed its Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and stopped DEI-focused vendor contracts.

Anti-DEI efforts are having an impact in other states as well.

Ohio colleges, for example, paused scholarships with race-based language to comply with Ohio's interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling banning affirmative action. A representative for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost confirmed to BestColleges that these scholarships are considered disguised race-conscious admissions policies.

Since DEI laws have swept the nation, students have been picking up where colleges have left off with DEI programs.

The University of Texas at Austin recently dismantled the Monarch program for undocumented students after Texas' anti-DEI ban prohibited DEI offices at public colleges. The program provided advising, mentoring, mental health support, a scholarship, and financial workshops to undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students and students with temporary status in the U.S.

Now, Rooted, a student-run organization, is building up a DEI program to replace Monarch's without university help.