Kentucky House Kicks Off Fight Against DEI in Public Colleges and Universities

Evan Poellinger | March 19, 2024
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The Kentucky State House has passed a bill withholding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) funding from the state’s public colleges and universities, joining a larger trend of passing anti-DEI legislation at the state level.

In a 68-18 vote, the House passed Senate Bill 6, which prohibits the spending of taxpayer money on DEI institutions at Kentucky’s public universities, and requires viewpoint neutrality by universities. The bill further requires that students not be subjected to differential treatment on the basis of religious beliefs, sex, and race, and that schools will not “conduct any mandatory training of students or employees if the training presents one or more discriminatory concepts as fact.”

The bill comes on the heels of an opinion issued by the Attorney General of Kentucky Russell Coleman, which declared DEI funding and policies to be unconstitutional. On March 14, Coleman issued a statement in which he cited the Supreme Court case Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard in finding “there is an ‘inherent folly’ in ‘trying to derive equality from inequality.’”

Coleman added that the decision “makes clear that the CPE (Council on Postsecondary Education) defining ‘underrepresented minority’ exclusively in terms of race, and accordingly requiring that Kentucky’s state-funded postsecondary institutions set targets for how many students of a particular race they will enroll, retain, and graduate, violates the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act”

Kentucky now joins an extensive and growing list of states that have begun taking action against DEI policies in undergraduate and postgraduate education. Kentucky’s policy emulates other states that have made the decision to outright prohibit funding of DEI policies and restricting the use of language associated with the ideology. Other states, like Wisconsin, have taken more indirect measures, such as withholding of funding, in order to force the hands of their public universities in removing DEI-related positions.

The Senate bill will now be sent back to the Kentucky State Senate in its amended form. Whether Gov. Andy Beshear (D) will sign it into law remains to be seen.

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