The University of Utah will no longer use diversity statements or questions in its hiring practices, the president of the school said in a statement sent out late Friday.

“In light of recent statements made by elected leaders and directives from the Utah Board of Higher Education to eliminate diversity questions or statements used in hiring at Utah’s higher education institutions, all hiring units at the university should discontinue the use of any type of diversity statements or similar practices as part of their unit-level applicant or employee hiring processes,” President Taylor Randall said in an email to administrators.

Randall was referring to statements made in December by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who said he thought it was “bordering on evil that we’re forcing people into a political framework before they can even apply for a job in the state.” 

Cox also called DEI statements “very political,” during his televised PBS press conference last month, and said the Legislature planned to ban them — a move he supports. DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Utah Board of Higher Education followed up on the governor’s remarks by acknowledging some of Utah’s colleges and universities have used DEI statements or questions in their hiring processes.

“However, these institutions have been phasing out this practice for some time, recognizing the need for a careful and thoughtful approach alongside state leaders. The board continues to collaborate with all Utah colleges and universities to wind down the use of such statements in hiring processes,” the higher education board’s statement said.

It continued, “The board is actively engaged in ongoing dialogue with both the Legislature and the governor to ensure a comprehensive review of DEI practices on campus and is committed to navigating the complexities of these issues to ensure institutions meet their core missions, ensure equal opportunity hiring practices, and support all students.”

In his statement, Randall said the university wants to hire people “from every walk of life” and affirms its “commitment to non-discriminatory hiring practices ... .” He said the campus and University of Utah Health human resources staff will “assist in designing job postings and potential interview questions for positions to accommodate the need to assess an applicant’s knowledge and ability to meet all aspects of a job function.” 

Several Utah state lawmakers are considering legislation on the use of DEI on public college campuses, but details are not yet available. Utah Democrats have signaled they plan to fight the proposals.

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“Diversity, equity, and inclusion statements and initiatives are designed to help us recognize the inherent differences between everyone’s backgrounds and identities. Contrary to Gov. Cox’s claims, we believe that DEI programs help unite people. No one is being ‘forced into a box or victimhood’ when we recognize diversity,” a joint statement from Utah and Salt Lake County Democrats said.

Randall’s decision to ban DEI statements comes as university administrators across the country are under fire for what some see as illiberal behavior on college campuses brought on by DEI programs.

Recently in Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Legislature cut funds for DEI offices at public colleges and universities, then held back money for pay increases and infrastructure improvements on those campuses until the schools agreed to freeze hiring for DEI positions and to endow a chair for “conservative political thought,” according to National Review

Utah’s legislative session begins Jan. 16, and is scheduled to conclude March 1.

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