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A new law is shutting down Pride centers in state universities

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A new law taking effect in Utah bans the use of the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) in university programming. It will close student Pride centers and programs devoted to Black, tribal, and women’s groups.

The closures come in the wake of Utah’s H.B. 261, a bill that restricts Utah schools from incorporating any and all DEI initiatives in their institutions — as well as the mere mention of the words.

LGBTQ+ resource centers at the University of Utah, Southern Utah University, and Weber State will be shut down when House Bill 261 takes effect for the coming academic year.

On Monday, the University of Utah’s LGBT Resource Center announced its closure via an Instagram post, just one of several resource and cultural centers to close in the aftermath of the anti-DEI legislation.

The Black Cultural Center, American Indian Resource Center, and Center for Equity and Student Belonging at the University have all been closed and will be integrated into a reconfigured Office of Student Affairs. It’s unclear if the University’s LGBT Resource Center will be similarly accommodated. 

Under the new law’s “Equal Opportunity Initiatives,” student services must be available to all students and not provided to individuals based on “personal identity characteristics.” 

According to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R), the bill will repurpose funding to help all Utah students regardless of background.

In guidance provided by officials at the University of Utah for the anti-DEI law, teachers and staff are warned, “The University should avoid using the full phrase ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ in connection with any policy, procedure, practice, program, office, initiative, or required training, as required by the plain language of HB 261.”

“Where possible,” the guidance continues, “the University should also avoid using any of the terms ‘diversity,’ ‘equity,’ or ‘inclusion’ individually” in connection with any of the above, as well as “with titles of other committees, activities, or interview questions.”

University employees are encouraged instead to use alternative language like “equal opportunity,” “all backgrounds,” “social mobility,” “student wellbeing,” “differing viewpoints,” and “belonging.”

Despite the Orwellian word bans and hazy future for LGBTQ+ students there, the University’s Pride Center decided a celebration was in order.

“Let’s come together to honor the center’s legacy of support, advocacy, and resilience,” read the University’s LGBT Center announcement on Instagram, “as well as to honor the 21 years of commitment that went into creating a safe environment where everyone is valued, not despite of their identities, but because of them.”  

“The work and legacy of the LGBT Resource Center will continue at the University of Utah,” the announcement added.

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