Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Kansas colleges aren’t sweating new law threatening $10,000 fines for certain DEI policies

Jacob Workentine
The Rhatigan Student Center (RSC) on Feb. 14, 2023. (File photo)

This story was reported and published by The Wichita Beacon.

Requiring job candidates to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion during the hiring process could subject public universities in Kansas to $10,000 fines.

new law bans colleges from requiring statements of support or opposition to political ideologies or movements during admission, hiring or promotion processes.

In practice, that means colleges can’t require staff or job candidates to answer questions or write one- or two-page memos on their contributions to DEI or their plans to contribute to DEI if hired.

The law passed the Republican-controlled Legislature largely along party lines. It then went to the state’s Democratic governor, who could have used her veto powers to try and kill the bill.

Instead, Gov. Laura Kelly let it become law without her signature. She is concerned about the law, but Kelly said it has such a limited real-world impact because Kansas universities don’t insist on those things now.

“We need to move forward and focus our efforts on making college more affordable and providing students from all backgrounds with the tools they need to succeed,” Kelly said in a press release.

The Beacon contacted public universities in Kansas. Those that responded said the bill either didn’t apply on their campuses or they expected almost no change in how they operate.

“We do not feel that any recent policy or legislative changes will prevent us from continuing to offer an open and inclusive college experience for students of all ages, races, colors, national origin, genders, religions and disabilities,” said Lainie Mazzullo-Hart, director of communications at Wichita State University, in an emailed statement.

Colleges like Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University and Emporia State University said they are already compliant with the policy language or will not be significantly affected by the change. The law targets diversity practices, but DEI offices are still allowed to operate and staff who have a position solely focused on DEI will keep their jobs.

Rep. Steven Howe of Salina, the Republican chair of the House Higher Education Budget Committee, saw job postings on Kansas State University and University of Kansas websites that required candidates to talk about their contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Some postings still ask for soon-to-be-outlawed diversity statements, but most postings on K-State and KU job boards don’t have the requirement.

The governor can claim the DEI requirements don’t exist at Kansas colleges, Howe said, but they do. And he didn’t understand why professors or other faculty needed to share their views on diversity.

He said the bill originally created a lot of pushback, but as the process went on those concerns subsided — due in part to amendments on the bill. Howe said his committee held hearings on the bill, but no universities showed up to speak. The Kansas Board of Regents was neutral on the change.

“They’ve kind of come around a lot,” Howe said. “There’s a lot of fear when you bring up these topics and people are kind of concerned where it may lead.”

The original story can be read at The Wichita Beacon.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Jacob Workentine
Jacob Workentine, Former photographer
Workentine worked as a photographer for The Sunflower.

Comments (0)

All The Sunflower Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *