Feb 1, 2024 - News

Anti-DEI bills have surged since 2021

States that have proposed legislation limiting DEI programs and offices on college campuses
Data: National Conference of State Legislatures; Map: Axios Visuals

Proposals aimed at dismantling diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs on college campuses have been introduced in 21 states since 2021 — and nine of the states have approved such laws, an Axios analysis finds.

Why it matters: The wave of anti-DEI bills in state legislatures, including Utah, has come amid an ongoing conservative backlash against initiatives aimed at fighting systemic racism, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

Zoom in: The backlash has been driven by Republican lawmakers in response to the racial reckoning across America ignited in 2020 by the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who'd been detained by Minneapolis police.

  • That led schools, governments, corporations and others to create diversity initiatives that typically focus on racial sensitivity — and the nation's history of overlooking many of the stories of non-white Americans.
  • The backlash that followed focused largely on conservatives' claims that DEI programs undermine traditional teachings of American history — and often had the effect of making white students feel guilty.

By the numbers: More than two dozen anti-DEI bills or proposals banning antiracism programs in higher education have been introduced in state legislatures over the past three years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures data analyzed by Axios.

State of play: The surge in anti-DEI bills follows a conservative-led effort in several states to limit discussions of racism in K-12 public schools under the guise of banning critical race theory — a graduate school concept rarely taught in grade school.

  • Conservative think tanks such as the Claremont Institute have given templates for anti-DEI bills to lawmakers, lobbyists, activists and others, the New York Times has reported.

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