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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

KBOR speaks out against proposed DEI legislation

Mia Hennen
Kansas Board of Regents Chair Jon Rolph speaks during the Dec. 14, 2022, meeting of KBOR.

Jon Rolph, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, defended diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in his chair’s report at a KBOR meeting on Feb. 14. His report is in response to debates in the Kansas legislature and nationwide over various DEI requirements and positions on university and college campuses.

He broke down his own “personal reflections” and definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion, while stating how removing DEI requirements, programming and funding will “impact the lives of real people.”

Rolph was “most perplexed by the objections to inclusion” out of all of the three ideas that make up DEI. He said that he was opposed to ideas that equate exclusivity with value and that institutions were working to create inclusive environments for students, faculty and staff.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of our people, not as groups, but as individuals,” Rolph said. “It takes effort and intention to cultivate a learning environment that supports inclusion and belonging. It is our aspiration to enhance all students’ chances at success, academically and economically and harness all the positive implications that it has for our state and our nation.“

Rolph said that Kansas’ diversity “is a fact” and that KBOR has a “unique opportunity to reflect” that diversity through its work and institutions.

In regards to equity, Rolph said that it is necessary to eliminate barriers and obstacles to those wanting to attend institutions throughout the state.

“I have trouble understanding the objections,” Rolph said. “I can only assume that there are those that hold to the belief that if you do anything at all to advantage one group, you are taking something away from another. This is not, in my opinion, a zero-sum game.”


Wichita State asks for a diversity statement on its job applications, but it varies between applications. An example from an assistant professorship in aerospace engineering looks like: “An EDI Statement describes a faculty candidate’s past, present, and future (planned) contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion. To learn more about how WSU thinks about contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion, please review our diversity plan.”              

Because Wichita State has open admissions, it did not engage with affirmative action and currently does not require a diversity statement.

Kansas legislature conversations

The high education budget committee in the Kansas House of Representatives discussed a bill regarding DEI statements in hiring, scholarship and admissions practices at public, postsecondary institutions in Kansas on Jan. 31.

Along with DEI statements, this bill, known as HB 2460, would also prohibit requiring statements of “patriotism or related topics.”

Offending institutions will be fined $100,000 per violation. That money will either go to a state general fund or to a special revenue fund of a postsecondary educational institution that is not in violation and has not been in violation of this law for the previous two years.

Steven Howe, chairperson of the House committee on higher education budget, asked for this bill to be introduced to the committee and gave testimony on DEI statement requirements.

In this testimony, Howe cited two examples of these statements for faculty positions from the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. 

In the University of Kansas application, applicants are asked to “describe your experiences working with people from diverse backgrounds and explain how those experiences reflect your commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

In Kansas State’s application, the university asked applicants for a “statement of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” As of the publication of this article, this requirement is no longer on the application.

In a later testimony, Tyler Coward, a representative from The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, said that the legislation would not prevent universities from asking about applicants’ experiences with people from diverse backgrounds.

Howe said that state universities and KBOR “haven’t really demonstrated any formal action to address the issue (DEI) so it was really left to us in the legislature to address it.”

Rolph, however, said that KBOR and university leadership across Kansas “have continued to work in good faith to honor the request of (their) peers in the legislature.”

“HB 2460, from my perspective, creates significant confusion and potential conflict where unity and collaboration have been actively pursued,” Rolph said. “We remained open to continual dialogue, related to both concerns raised in the bill, believing that legislative action must be reserved as the final step and not the first step in any meaningful change.”

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About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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