Statement on State Legislation Attacking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education

May 8, 2023

Across the country, partisan legislators have introduced legislation to ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in higher education. These attacks have a devastating impact on students, faculty, and staff. The legislation attempts to undermine steps by colleges to create a welcoming campus environment; recruit and retain faculty, students, and staff that represent their communities; evaluate and address gaps in student success; increase college attainment and post-graduation success; and combat bias and discrimination on campuses throughout the country.  

Efforts to make colleges and universities more diverse, equitable, and inclusive are essential for the full promise of higher education. Centuries of racist and exclusionary policies continue to intentionally harm Black, Indigenous, Latine, and other structurally marginalized students. These policies, such as segregation and the intentional underfunding of institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges, contribute to yawning racial wealth gaps. Colleges cannot properly support or educate these students without creating programs designed to acknowledge and address these historical—and still very much present—inequities. 

Legislative attacks on DEI efforts in higher education are racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, ableist, and white supremacist attempts to prevent state residents from accessing and succeeding in higher education. Most college students in states like Texas and Florida, where such legislation is being proposed, are students of color who face unjust structural barriers that lead to inequitable experiences in college. According to The Hope Center’s Student Basic Needs Survey, 70% or more of Black and Indigenous students experience basic needs insecurity, compared to 54% of White students—including lack of access to adequate housing, food, health care, child care, internet connectivity, transportation, and mental health services. A higher proportion of LGBTQ+ students also experience basic needs insecurity compared to cisgender heterosexual students. To limit efforts to identify and address inequities in student experiences and outcomes is to intentionally exclude many state residents from pursuing and succeeding in college, and by doing so, intentionally hinder their chances at upward mobility

Legislative attacks on DEI efforts in higher education are racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, ableist, and white supremacist attempts to prevent state residents from accessing and succeeding in higher education

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The Hope Center

Attacks on DEI efforts disproportionately harm students of color, especially Black, Indigenous, and Latine students. As we work with hundreds of colleges, we’re hearing how even the consideration of these harmful proposals to ban DEI efforts creates fear, distress, and confusion among faculty, staff, and students. It sends a chilling message that students of color are not welcome or valued in our system of higher education—thereby reinforcing the systemic marginalization and exclusion they already face. We stand firmly in support of the students, staff, and faculty we serve as they navigate this historic time in the struggle to secure students’ basic needs security. 

Efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education—and a policy environment that supports them—are essential for our society. DEI efforts are the bare minimum for students who have been systemically marginalized in higher education and they’re fundamental to academic freedom and student success. Limiting the scope of higher education deprives all students of the opportunity to explore diverse perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Banning DEI efforts denies students access to critical discussions and engagements that foster critical thinking, empathy, and social awareness. Current legislative attacks force a homogenous educational environment that will fundamentally fail to prepare students for the needs of today’s society and workforce.  

We strongly oppose efforts to limit DEI at colleges and universities and we call on all of higher education to stand up for students.