Around One Third States Taking Action Against Diversity Programs

Around one-third of states throughout the country are taking some form of action against DEI initiatives.

Just this week, Tennessee became the latest conservative-led state to sign into law a bill that would prohibit financial institutions such as banks from considering a customer’s participation, or lack of, in “diversity, equity and inclusion training” or in “social justice programming.”

That move came not long after Kansas’ Democratic governor allowed a bill to become law without signing it that will ban anny statements about diversity, equity or inclusion from being used in any decision regarding student admissions, financial aid or employment at any of the state’s institutions of higher learning.

The Republican-led state Legislature in Iowa gave its final approval to a bill for the state budget that bans all DEI initiatives and officers in the state’s higher education institutions that aren’t necessary to comply with either federal law or accreditation.

Iowa’s new law expands upon a directive that was passed by the Iowa Board of Regents last year that eliminates all DEI staff positions.

Roughly 24 states that have seen Republican lawmakers file bills that have sought to restrict these DEI initiatives just this year. Democrats have countered that by sponsoring measures that support DEI initiatives in 20 other states.

In total, there have been roughly 150 bills proposed in 2024 alone that either promote or restrict DEI efforts, as the Associated Press reported as part of its software called Plural that tracks legislation throughout the country.

For many years now, businesses and institutions of higher education have been devoting increasing resources to improving inclusivity and diversity in their organizations.

But, conservative groups started to raise concerns that these initiatives actually promote agendas that elevate gender or racial identity over merit that an individual has earned.

ABC News reported that, since the start of 2022, about six libertarian or conservative organizations have offered new model measures to lawmakers at state levels that either eliminate DEI officers or prohibit states using DEI criteria as part of training programs, or final decisions for financial aid, academic acceptance or employment.

One of the architects of that movement is Christopher Rufo, who serves at the Manhattan Institute as a senior fellow. In a recent article, he wrote that the goal of these efforts is to “abolish DEI in all American institutions.”

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education’s president, Paulette Granberry Russell, countered that, though, saying that DEO “has now been weaponized.”

As she explained:

“It’s taking us, unfortunately, back to a time that failed to acknowledge the inequities that persist today based on discriminatory practices.”

Last year, Texas and Florida were the first two states to adopt broad laws that banned DEI efforts at higher education institutions. Since that time, Texas universities have eliminated more than 100 jobs that were related to DEI initiatives, while universities in Florida have been doing the same.

DEI efforts were restricted in both Utah and Alabama earlier this year not only for higher education, but also in state government and in K-12 schools.