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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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BeyondMU: Utah Becomes the Latest State to Ban Diversity

Matthew+Schaffer
The Parthenon
Matthew Schaffer

Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed programs to ban diversity on university campuses and state government into law last week, raising concerns amongst students and educators.

The new law will effectively ban dedicated offices and programs from universities and government buildings that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, marking a continued attack on affirmative action despite lower college enrollment rates amongst minorities.

“I can assure you, after this legislative session, it will not be happening in the state of Utah: these diversity statements that you have to sign to get hired,” Cox said in a statement in December, before adding the DEI incentives were “awful” and “bordering on evil.”

Cox joins fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who signed similar legislation in May 2023, which resulted in the closure of women’s and LGBTQ+ centers on college campuses across the state.

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The new law has sparked fear and backlash in the states that have passed legislation, including protests at the University of North Florida combatting the law in the days following its passage.

However, several other DEI programs in Florida have renamed their offices in an attempt to remain in compliance with the law.

In Utah, several educators including teachers, superintendents, administrators and two university presidents, have come out in opposition to the law, including former Southern University of Utah President Richard E. Kendell; retired State Superintendent Steve Laing; retired State Superintendent Larry Shumway; Superintendent Jeff Stephens and Superintendent Dave Doty, the contributors to an article to the “Salt Lake Tribune.”

“The current controversy about diversity, equity and inclusion is both puzzling and alarming,” the article states. “Our history speaks for itself from a variety of viewpoints and experiences. Literally hundreds of authors tell our history as they understand it and respect the fact that other authors may not agree with them. Our strength is found in the richness and diversity of multiple voices.”

These bills come following the Supreme Court’s decision to rule affirmative action enrollment policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina as unconstitutional, marking an end to a decades-long program intended to promote enrollment for minorities applying to the academic institutions.

While the topic remains hotly contested between lawmakers, a recent annual report released by Princeton University on Jan. 29 found that these diversity programs being slashed in many states nationwide are effective in retaining and growing the percentage of minority students, especially those with disabilities.

“More than 1,200 students with disabilities were registered with the Office of Disability Services to receive reasonable accommodations,” the report said, marking a 400-student increase from the year prior.

The report also highlighted the university’s largest graduate school class in its history, with 22% of the students enrolling in the program being from underrepresented racial groups.

However, these reports won’t likely have an impact on the outcome of the legislature, with similar legislation focused on banning or limiting diversity, equity and inclusion programs have been introduced throughout the United States.

Utah is the latest to pass such legislation, joining Texas, Florida, Iowa and Oklahoma, with at least 17 other states having introduced similar bills in 2024.

As Republicans continue to introduce legislation banning diversity, equity and inclusion programs, Democrats in state legislatures across nine U.S. states have introduced over 20 that would push and promote DEI programs.

Meanwhile, colleges in universities nationally have seen a 41% decrease in enrollment from 2010 to 2021, according to the most recent data by the National Center for Education Statistics, with many of the institutions failing to reach pre-pandemic enrollment numbers.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Schaffer, Managing Editor
Matthew Schaffer is a senior at Marshall University pursuing a B.A. in multimedia journalism with a minor in political science. He follows national politics and foreign affairs. He has previously worked as a reporter for both The Parthenon and WMUL. After graduating, he plans to pursue a political and investigative journalism career. In the meantime, he is the self-proclaimed "Hoops Fever Champion" and is, in fact, accepting challengers.
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