These States’ Anti-DEI Legislation May Impact Higher Education
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
- Across the country, state lawmakers are proposing bills to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at state-funded institutions.
- The bills could impact a wide range of initiatives, from defunding DEI offices and officers to removing diversity statements from hiring practices.
- Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have either proposed anti-DEI bills or could be in the process of drafting them.
A growing number of states have introduced legislation that would restrict or ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at public colleges.
There are currently more than 30 bills across the country targeting DEI funding, practices, and promotion at schools. As of June 19, six have been signed into law by a governor: two in Florida, one in each of the Dakotas, one in Tennessee, and most recently, one in Texas. Only a few other bills have reached the final stages of approval while the majority are still moving through their state legislatures.
Here is a full list of states where DEI bills have been introduced, approved, signed into law, or failed to be adopted.
What Each DEI Bill Targets If Signed Into Law
Under House Bill 7, public institutions in Alabama would be prohibited from promoting, endorsing, or requiring affirmation of certain "divisive concepts" relating to race, sex, or religion.
The bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. Ed Oliver on Jan. 20, and as of May 31, HB 7 was indefinitely postponed.
Under Senate Bill 1694, public colleges in Arizona would be prohibited from requiring an employee to engage with DEI programming; spending public funds on DEI programming or goods and services for a DEI program; and establishing and employing a DEI office.
On April 4, the bill was passed in the Arizona House Rules Committee — its last step before it either is or isn't signed into law.
Arkansas' Senate Bill 71 would "end state-sponsored discrimination" by prohibiting state and local government agencies, including public universities, from using affirmative action programs.
Additionally, race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin could no longer be considered in state employment, public education, and procurement. Violations would result in a Class A misdemeanor.
Though the bill was approved in the Senate and sent to the House on March 9, it failed to pass in the House on April 5 and was returned to the Senate floor.
On May 1, the bill died in the Senate.
Under House Bill 999 and its companion Senate Bill 266, public institutions in Florida are prohibited from funding the promotion, support, or maintenance of DEI programs; and from offering any general education course that "teaches identity politics, or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States."
Though an amended version of SB 266 was presented in April removing all language referencing DEI due to concerns about the bill's potential impact on accreditation; SB 266 had its third reading on May 3, where language referencing DEI was reintroduced. It passed in the state Senate that same day and on May 15, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis additionally signed one other bill targeting DEI initiatives at colleges in Florida on May 15. Under House Bill 931 and its companion Senate Bill 958, the state's public institutions are prohibited from giving preferential consideration for employment, admission, or promotion to individuals who show support for "any ideology or movement that promotes the differential treatment of a person or a group of persons based on race or ethnicity, including an initiative or a formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion."
Under Senate Bill 261, introduced on Feb. 27, public institutions in Georgia would have been prohibited from using "political litmus tests" in admissions and promotions within institutions.
After being read and referred, the bill "died in the committee."
Indiana's House Bill 1338 seeks to prohibit public institutions from requiring enrolled students from engaging "in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling." The bill would additionally prohibit schools from requiring students to attend any student orientation, other training, or presentation "that presents information regarding race or sex stereotyping or bias on the basis of race or sex."
HB 1338 was introduced on Jan. 17 by Republican state Rep. Shane Lindauer and is currently with the Committee of Education.
Iowa's House File 616, the successor to House Study Bill 218, has been introduced and placed on the calendar for a first reading. If passed, the bill would prohibit colleges and universities governed by the Iowa state board of regents from funding diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and officers.
This would not impact registered student organizations, offices solely engaged with new student recruitment, or any offices that are required to maintain contracts or agreements with a federal government agency.
In March, Kansas legislators introduced two bills targeting DEI initiatives at schools in the state. Under House Bill 2460 the state's postsecondary education institutions would be prohibited from providing admission or aid to students based on their support (or opposition) to a political ideology.
The second bill, SB 155, is a budget bill that would ban schools from enacting DEI practices in hiring decisions and spending state funds on requiring students, employees, or contractors to endorse DEI ideology. As of April 6, SB 155 passed in the House and the Senate.
On April 6, SB 155 passed in the House and the Senate. However, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the parts of the budget bill related to higher education on April 20 and it was returned to the House floor.
Senate Bill 128 was introduced on April 10 by Republican State Sen. Jay Morris. The bill would have prohibited colleges and universities from providing any "preferential treatment" in the form of scholarships, grants, or financial aid to students based on their "race, sex, or national origin." The bill failed a vote out of committee prior to the end of the legislative session on June 8.
Missouri's Senate Bill 410, if passed, would prohibit higher education institutions from requiring current students, applicants, instructors, or any other employees to answer questions about their ideologies surrounding diversity, equity, or inclusion. If the school is found to be in violation, they run the risk of losing funding, grants, and contracts.
The bill specifically states that colleges and universities should not reduce the academic standards for "admission or advancement" in healthcare-related programs.
House Bill 75, introduced Jan. 4 by Rep. Ann Kelley, would prohibit public schools and institutions of higher education from requiring students to "engage in any mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling."
Senate Bill 680 and House Bill 1196 both look to eliminate diversity statements in hiring faculty at public colleges and universities.
Introduced by State Representatives Trebas, Mitchell, and Bogner, Senate Bill 222 prohibits the "unlawful discriminatory practice" of diversity training as a condition of employment. The bill prohibits universities from compelling potential hires to believe a list of concepts, such as members of one class being superior to another class.
Sen. John Johnson, a Republican from North Ogden, introduced Senate Bill 283 in February, which aimed to prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and officers at public universities in Nebraska.
After its first reading, the bill was changed into a study that requires the Education Interim Committee to conduct research on the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in higher education.
On April 13, North Carolina Republicans introduced House Bill 607, which would prohibit institutions in the University of North Carolina system and public community colleges from asking prospective students and employees about their political or social beliefs. That bill has passed in the House and passed the first reading in the Senate on May 2.
Under Senate Bill 2247, signed into law on April 24, students, professors, and other employees of higher education institutions in North Dakota cannot be asked about their ideological or political viewpoints. Additionally, public institutions cannot conduct mandatory training that includes "specified concepts," like the belief that "an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously."
Under Ohio Senate Bill 83, private institutions would only receive funding from the chancellor of higher education if they comply with a list of commitments, including to intellectual diversity, freedom of speech, and syllabus compliance.
Colleges in the state could not require DEI courses or training for students, faculty, and staff. They also would not be permitted to use "political or ideological litmus tests" in hiring or promoting faculty members.
SB 83 now heads to the Ohio House, where hearings are underway on a companion piece of legislation. But as support grows among Republican politicians, opposition to the legislation continues to grow in Ohio's institutions of higher education.
On June 15, Rep. Edwards, introduced into Ohio's two-year state budget plan several elements of Senate Bill 83.
Ohio State's Board of Trustees issued a rare public statement Tuesday, saying SB 83 raised "important questions about 21st-century education," but the legislation as it's currently written could "undermine the shared governance model of universities, risk weakened academic rigor, or impose extensive and expensive new reporting mandates."
On Jan. 19, Republican state legislators introduced two bills that would prohibit public colleges in Oklahoma from funding DEI offices and using "political tests" and diversity statements in the hiring process.
Both SB 870 and SB 1008 had their second readings in February and are still going through the legislative process as of this month.
Two nearly identical bills were introduced on January 9 in Oregon. House Bill 2430, sponsored by Rep. Wright, and House Bill 2475, sponsored by Rep. Wallan, both prohibit public educational institutions in Oregon from requiring or compelling students to believe "any race, ethnicity, color, sex, gender, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to another."
As of June 19, the two bills were still in the introductory phase.
South Carolina's House Bill 4289 and House Bill 4290 would ban public institutions from establishing mandatory diversity training and diversity statements and from using diversity statements for consideration in hiring and admissions practices.
Both bills were introduced on April 6 and were referred to the Committee on Education and Public Works on the same day.
South Dakota's House Bill 1012 was signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem in March 2022. The bill targets "divisive concepts," but does not restrict professors from teaching these subjects. Instead, it prohibits mandatory training or orientation about these concepts.
Under the two bills that are currently going through the legislative process in Tennessee, public colleges in the state would be prohibited from requiring DEI training and education to issue certain medical and health-related degrees and from using state funds to endorse or promote "divisive concepts."
These "divisive" concepts were banned from teaching lessons under state law in 2022 and include beliefs that "Tennessee or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist" and that "an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual's race or sex."
Under House Bill 1376, students and employees can report professors who teach "divisive concepts" to their institutions. It passed on May 3.
Senate Bill 102, passed on May 17, prohibits institutions of higher education from firing faculty members or employees for refusing to participate in implicit bias training.
So far in Texas, one bill has been signed into law: Senate Bill 17/ House Bill 5127. After the bill made its way through the Senate and the House throughout April and May, on June 14, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law.
DEI offices, diversity training for students and employees, and "ideological oaths and statements" at public institutions in Texas will be banned beginning on January 1, 2024. Academic research and coursework can not be restricted from this bill. No later than December 1 each year, higher education institutions in Texas will be required to submit a report certifying their compliance with the law.
Of the six remaining bills, each attempts to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education in some form, from banning funding for diversity offices and diversity training as a condition of enrollment for students to eliminating diversity statements from the hiring process.
House Bill 3164 explicitly states that the elimination of diversity offices and officers at public universities cannot be used to constrict academic coursework, student organization activities, guest speakers, or physical and mental health services.
Senate Bill 16 passed in the Senate on April 12, which would ban critical race theory teaching at the university level in Texas. As of April 24, the bill had been read for the first time in the House and referred to the Higher Education committee.
Though HB 1, the State Budget bill, was passed in both the House and the Senate, the bill was returned to the House after the Senate made additional amendments to it. A conference committee created a compromise bill that would ban DEI practices and programs that do not comply with sections of the state constitution. The Senate approved the new report on May 26, and the House approved it the following day. The final version is currently sitting on Greg Abbott's desk for approval.
Under House Bill 451 and Senate Bill 283, public institutions in Utah would have been prohibited from funding or promoting DEI offices and requiring DEI statements from students, faculty, and staff for hiring or admissions practices.
Both bills were introduced in February by Republican legislators, Rep. Katy Hall and Sen. John Johnson, respectively. While SB 283 was pulled before the end of the legislative session, HB 451 failed to pass by the session's end.
West Virginia's House Bill 3503, which failed to pass before the end of the state's legislative session, would eliminate any mandatory diversity training, including discussion, workshops, and guest speakers on cultural appropriation, transphobia, homophobia, social justice, and inclusive language.