Kansas moves towards restricting DEI in public universities



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The Kansas House on Thursday passed a bill to restrict diversity-oriented hiring practices at Kansas universities, making the Sunflower State the latest to try to limit DEI initiatives in educational settings. 

The bill passed in the Kansas House of Representatives in an 81-39 vote on Thursday, with five lawmakers absent from the vote. The bill would prevent the state’s universities, community colleges or technical colleges from using diversity, equity or inclusion consideration in their admissions, student aid and hiring decisions.

The bill also would prohibit postsecondary educational institutes from basing admissions, educational aid or employment decisions on any statement about “political ideology or movement” the candidate may provide. Universities would also be banned from requesting or requiring such statements. 

The vote comes nearly a week after the Kansas Senate moved forward with a proposed $25 billion state budget, which features a provision to force universities to eliminate DEI requirements and mandatory DEI training, The Associated Press reported. The state’s six universities would need to report they have eliminated these requirements to receive certain funding, the news wire added. 

The provision will be discussed among negotiators during the final budget draft processes, per The AP. 

“Instead of a merit-based approach, universities have chosen to embrace ideologies that discriminate against people who do not hew to their orthodoxy,” State Rep. Steven Howe, the Republican lawmaker behind the legislation, said during a House proceeding Wednesday. “This legislation prohibits all loyalty oaths, litmus tests without regard to viewpoint or ideology.” 

Calling it “constitutionally sound,” Howe said the legislation is “protective” of students and faculty rights. 

The proposed legislation would also permit the state attorney general to impose fines of up to $10,000 on schools that do not comply with the rules, per the bill text. 

The definition of DEI is not clearly defined in the measure, some Kansas lawmakers argued, per the AP. Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R) pushed back on this, claiming the bill would instead create a basic test — if a university requires ideological statements from candidates — to avoid definition confusion, the news wire added. 

Republican leaders in nearly two dozen states have sought to restrict DEI initiatives in schools, including in Alabama, where the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed a measure this week to ban state funding of DEI programs at public universities, local boards of education and government agencies. 

At least 22 states have introduced legislation surrounding DEI efforts at universities as of July 2023, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Texas and Florida colleges have started terminating DEI positions and Florida state colleges are prohibited from using state or federal money to fund DEI programs. 

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