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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Hufford: Utah’s DEI Legislation is Ignorant at Best

H.B. 261 perpetuates ignorance of BIPOC individuals’ lived experience in Utah and hinders progress toward equity in education. 
National+flags+on+display+at+the+the+A.+Ray+Olpin+Union+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Monday%2C+Jan.+29%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Sarah+Karr+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Sarah Karr
National flags on display at the the A. Ray Olpin Union in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Photo by Sarah Karr | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

During this legislative session, a bill was introduced that will dismantle diversity programs statewide. In late January, H.B. 261 was approved by the House, despite having virtually no data to support its validity. The bill will limit access to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives in Utah’s public education systems and government.

Ultimately, H.B. 261 depends on the superficial notion that minorities unfairly receive differential treatment in public organizations. State legislatures banned the title “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” itself and demanded it be replaced with language that includes all students. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katy Hall (R-Davis, Weber Counties), hopes it will influence institutions to judge individuals on their own merits. Instead, H.B. 261 perpetuates ignorance of BIPOC individuals’ lived experience in Utah and hinders progress toward equity in education.

Inequity in Education 

From K-12 schools to public colleges, a history of systemic discrimination plagues public education. Many Utah schools still experience the effects of racial and socioeconomic segregation. DEI initiatives can combat this by facilitating supportive and diverse environments and offering resources.

Diversity in education is also known to improve student success. Standardized testing scores show a trending gap between Black and white students. In integrated schools, as much of a quarter of this disparity is reduced and students are 68% more likely to enroll in a four-year university.

The evidence clearly shows that diversity in education must be a priority. Access to quality education is crucial, but providing that access also means acknowledging the system’s history. On average, minority students in K-12 education experience lower funding and higher teacher turnover. The notion that minority students are on an elevated playing field against their non-minority counterparts is ignorant.

The system was built to work against BIPOC individuals and DEI initiatives are crucial in repairing the impacts that persist.

Creating Safe Spaces 

The purpose of DEI initiatives is largely to create positive communities for minority students. A recent protest against H.B. 261 at the University of Utah was led by students who highlighted the value of these programs. They referenced DEI initiatives as crucial for maintaining “a sense of belonging for students who might otherwise feel marginalized.”

University of Utah student Alicia Velazquez emphasized the vitality of these safe spaces and referenced her experience as a BIPOC student.

“For many people of diverse backgrounds, [inclusive support groups] are the only place they can meet and converse with people that share their identities,” Velazquez said. “Seeing members of diverse identities [be celebrated and recognized] makes me understand that I’m someone on campus and that I have a group of people that can support me.”

Utah is a predominantly white state and is highly influenced by religious culture. Students outside of the majority are thus more susceptible to feeling alienated when attending state schools. DEI initiatives may help these individuals feel more comfortable and succeed in their academic endeavors. Homogenous student populations can be stressful and lonely for some, and the importance of DEI programs is creating safe spaces for these students.

Erasing Experiences 

Utah House Minority Leader Angela Romero was especially concerned regarding H.B. 261 during its debate. She fears that the bill will erase people, identities and experiences. To say there is a level playing field for all students is grossly inaccurate at best. In reality, it reeks more of willful ignorance.

Systems of discriminatory practices that still plague our education system and government today cannot be ignored. Public institutions must bridge gaps and create safe spaces for historically marginalized citizens.

Velazquez reiterated the importance of prioritizing diversity in both schools and the workplace. “

In a world with eight billion other people, it’s important to understand and talk to people that are different than you — it makes you a better individual,” Velazquez said.

Utah legislators seem to be deliberately disregarding the vitality of diversity. The rhetoric that has been used to justify this idea is particularly concerning and cannot be ignored. Community members, particularly those involved in the public education system, must join in vocalizing its significance. Republican lawmakers must likewise realize that diversity initiatives are not a threat to Utah’s majority demographic. Rather, these programs offer hope and inclusion for students who deserve to feel safe.

 

[email protected]

@oliviaghufford

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About the Contributors
Olivia Hufford, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Olivia Hufford joined the opinion desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in 2023. She plans to pursue a degree in nursing, but has always been passionate about writing and journalism. Olivia grew up in both Houston and Salt Lake City and loves being in the outdoors. In her free time, Olivia enjoys running, hiking, skiing, and exploring new places.
Sarah Karr, Photographer
Sarah Karr was born and raised in Springfield, Oregon, and is attending the University of Utah with a major is communication and a minor in digital photography. Sarah is working with the Chronicle to improve her photojournalism skills and gain some experience in the newsroom. In her free time, Sarah likes to play online games, read and tend to her plants.

Comments (1)

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  • J

    John HedbergFeb 5, 2024 at 8:33 pm

    This “thought piece” should have been titled, “Olivia Fights to Maintain Her Mass Formation Psychosis” (kudos to Mattias Desmet). It’s like something straight out of the Cave Allegory from Plato’s Republic.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, Sister~! 💛

    I think the Prophets of Equity need to apologize for the harm they cause by teaching everyone that if you’re straight, you therefore hate people who are not, and if you’re pale, you therefore hate people who are not, and if you’re Christian, you therefore hate people who are not, and if you’re male, you therefore hate people who are not. This is actual hate-speech coming from the lying crowd who protests endlessly that hate is wrong, except that they are hate-targeting every person who might identify with these groups, which is itself the ground zero of bigotry.

    The ideal of civil/human rights is supposed to mean that everyone, no matter how they look or identify, is supposed to be lovable and accepted for being human, which is the real identity we all share equally, and so how you were born or what ideas you find beautiful at the moment have absolutely no bearing on your worth as a person or your value as a member of society. Equity’s fraudulent hypocrites have not only failed us all in this mission, but they preach the opposite: anyone who doesn’t agree with Equity’s hatreds must therefore be an awful person; anyone who doesn’t agree with Equity’s picked preferences must also be atrocious. These hatreds and preferences have a name: prejudice.

    So, when the Marxist-Equity ‘useful idiots’ preach about diversity and inclusion, they only mean inclusion of diversity which agrees with their prejudices and feelings, and to heck with everyone else, no matter how they look or identify. That’s racism, misogyny/misandry, homo/hetero-phobia, religious bigotry, ethnic stereotyping, and transphobia all rolled together, because if any diverse person from any group has an opinion or experience that doesn’t agree with the hatreds or prejudices of the Equity Red Guard, those transgender people are dehumanized, those LGBTQ+ folks are dismissed and excluded, those BIPOC & intersectional persons are demeaned and defamed falsely as haters, and so all individuals no matter how they look or identify are called bigots just for being themselves, for having their own lived experience and their own opinions based on that experience, and for having compassion for any whom the Equity “screw-loose gurus” don’t have compassion for (the name Chloe Cole immediately comes to mind as someone whom they suppressed and dehumanized, but there are plenty of others).

    When is the Church of Equity going to apologize for perjuring, abusing, and harassing all the folks (on campus and off) who have zero problem with anyone else’s diversity, as long as we can get equal respect for our own individuality, people who just want to be ourselves and interact, to earn and learn alongside everyone else, but who don’t share the pet hatreds of the Equity defamers and pathological narcissists?

    Diversity, EQUALITY, and Inclusion, never Equity.

    Equity appears to believe that hatred against human groups or individuals is “kosher” as long as those hatreds conform to whatever “Equity” feels at the moment. For 75 years, Jewish people have been among the most solid on the side of civil and human rights, and yet Equity has decided to hate-label Jewish people as “genocidal” for no cause, except that they decided to defend themselves from atrocities committed against them by another group which “Equity” goofballs happen to favor this week.

    That’s all it takes: disagree with the Prophets of Equity about who deserves their equity (discrimination) the most, and suddenly you’re a racist even if you accept everyone and belong to a group that’s poly-racial, or you’re a colonist even if you’re defending your own ancestral lands against the people who dispossessed you. According to Equity’s priesthood, the best thing women and children and grandparents deserve for defending life and Love and heritage is to be swept out of existence “from the River to the Sea”, as if Auschwitz wasn’t bad enough for everyone to learn that hatred itself, against any people, is wrong: this is the line where human rights begin, but Equity’s hatred has no boundaries to keep human beings safe and whole, because to Equity, human worth isn’t sacred. Equity gets to decide our human value just by glancing at us. That’s why it’s Hitler-level egomaniacal.

    Being treated with Equality is to treat every human being with Love as children in God’s eyes (By Whatever Name), all equally fallible and forgivable, equally beloved, the way a good parent Loves every child, which is how Dr. King preached the Gospel. Equity is nothing more than hatred looking for an excuse to vent itself, any excuse (clearly), but Equality is Loving everyone despite our inevitable errors and goofy imperfections, since children fall down constantly as we learn and grow into “a more perfect union” of habits, truths, attitudes, and culture which ever greater reflect the Love we receive as we mature, learn responsibilities which go along with this lived-Loved experience, and find common purpose in sharing the griefs as well as the joys of our transformative evolution in the way that God exemplifies it as a parent, through unfailing Love.

    We’re all fine, or we should be, by being and becoming exactly who we were created to be in this life. The Equity religion’s “clown car” owes us all an open apology for the endless empty fear, division, and hate-filled ugliness they rain on the rest of us, for all the needless hypocrisy and suffering they cause by their preferred discrimination and hatreds, and for never giving their “permission” for everyone to simply Love each person for who we are, which means their “church” would no longer have a reason for being.

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