Times Talk discusses Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs

By RAEGAN NEUFELD

Tiger Media Network

As of Jan. 31, seven bills targeting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across six U.S. states have been signed into law.   

The most recent American Democracy Project Times Talk shed some light on these laws, as well as similar legislation in Kansas and neighboring states, and covered what the future of DEI programs might look like. Fort Hays State University’s legal and diversity counsel, Julie Grabbe, presented on the subject. 

One of the common targets in the legislation Grabbe discussed focuses on a university’s diversity statement when hiring. This can include asking a potential hire about their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion goals, or their experience with working with people from diverse backgrounds.

“(Opponents to this) are saying this is requiring people to ascribe to a certain political identity or viewpoint, and that is not allowed,” Grabbe said. 

In Kansas, House Bill 2460 was introduced last March and discussed at the end of January during a hearing. It reads: “Prohibiting postsecondary educational institutions from taking certain actions regarding admission applicants and faculty concerning diversity, equity, inclusion or patriotism, exceptions; providing for civil remedies and penalties.”

The full bill can be read here.

“For students, this means we can’t condition admission or educational aid on that, and for faculty and staff it would be hiring, promoting and reappointing,” Grabbe said.

Additionally, the Senate introduced a proviso for the bill on Tuesday. It would take away the requirements of diversity statements in hiring and DEI training. Failure to comply would result in a loss of 35 million dollars from the state general fund that is allocated to universities.

“Our understanding is that (the Kansas Board of Regents) does not currently support that proviso, so we will watch and see what happens,” Grabbe said.

According to Grabbe, the future of DEI programs can affect the state’s labor demands.

Kansas will add a projected 54,000 jobs that require a degree between 2020 and 2030, the majority of them requiring a bachelor’s degree. An estimated 180,000 workers with jobs requiring a degree will leave the labor force during that same time, leaving Kansas with a demand for 234,000 jobs that require a degree. However, the expectation of new graduates staying in Kansas to work is only 200,000.

For Grabbe, the decisions made today regarding DEI will make a difference in how the state deals with the employment deficit. An inclusive educational environment can enhance student and faculty recruitment and retention and also better prepare students for the workforce. 

“Our commitment to DEI makes our institution more attractive to a broader range of students and faculty, and I think that’s very important,” she said. “If we continue to do the same things that we have done, we are going to continue to get the same numbers that we’re getting, and that is not enough.”

More information about FHSU’s DEI programs and resources can be found here.

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