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Kentucky DEI programs survive legislative threat

by Suchanaadainik
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Kentucky lawmakers appear to have run out of time to pass GOP legislation that would have banned public colleges and universities from spending “any resources” on “diversity, equity and inclusion offices” or “initiatives.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader called it “a stunning development in Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature,’ which had been expected to pass the controversial DEI ban. The paper reported that it was unclear why the bill didn’t pass on time, but that the General Assembly’s “leadership did mention that the votes within the Republican caucus weren’t there to pass the bill.”

The presidents of the universities of Kentucky and Louisville spoke out against multiple bills aimed at DEI in this year’s legislative session, and students also joined the opposition, according to the Herald-Leader and The Guardian.

Though the legislative session isn’t yet over, Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has said he opposes anti-DEI bills. Mike Wynn, public information manager for the state’s Legislative Research Commission, told Inside Higher Ed that, due to the legislative calendar, the General Assembly didn’t pass the bill in time with enough time left in the session to override a possible veto. Alabama, Indiana and Utah have passed laws this year targeting DEI.

The latest version of Senate Bill 6 defined DEI “initiatives” as policies or practices that promote “differential treatment or benefits to individuals on the basis of religion, race, sex, color or national origin.” Other initiatives would include trainings, presentations and meetings that promote “discriminatory concepts.”

That’s yet another term of art in the bill that referred to, among other things, “presenting as truth, rather than as a subject for inquiry, that an existing structure, system, or relation of power, privilege, or subordination persists on the basis of oppression, colonialism, socioeconomic status, religion, race, sex, color, or national origin.” The bill further defined DEI “offices” as institutional units responsible for promoting these “discriminatory concepts” or DEI initiatives.

After the session ends this month, the General Assembly won’t have another regular session until next January. The governor has the power to call special sessions, but he gets to set the agenda for them.

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