DEI Legislation Across the Country

It feels like I come to work almost every day and learn about new bills that members of state legislatures are proposing or are going into effect that seek to limit the work that is being done to make colleges and universities more inclusive (see a map of what is happening in each state published by the Chronicle of Higher Education). This is an assault on the work that so many institutions do to help both students and employees feel that they belong. It also sends messages telling people who are not part of the majority population that they are not equal. This form of government action makes me think of times when this country treated people as less than and codified it into laws. Think of the Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow, the treatment of Native Americans, and Supreme Court rulings. To retain control of the narrative on our campuses, legislation is proposed or passed that identifies what can and cannot be taught. DEI is the current target. 

AHEPPP recognizes the effect these policies have on our members and colleagues. DEI work is hard. It is emotional, stressful and takes a great deal of time to make just the slightest difference. But it is vital to help make our institutions, workplaces, communities, and country more welcoming. Yes, guilt is going to be involved. It comes from learning how to be a better person. So, when a state legislature enacts a bill that says topics cannot be discussed that will make one group feel guilty, they are more worried about people realizing what has been done in the past than they are about what can be done in the future. This affects how people do their jobs, many of whom work at public institutions that are in states that are enacting these laws. I am sure there is a lot of soul searching for those who are in these situations. And some might say that you should get a job in a state that is more welcoming. But it is not always that simple. In addition to the complications of the job search process, there are so many other implications to consider, such as family needs, pay and affordability of housing. It is not always feasible. So, they continue to do the work where they are. 

As a new member of AHEPPP (I joined in 2022) and a new member of the Equity, Belonging and Inclusion Council, it is good to see that the professional organization is looking to think critically about the impact legislation has on its membership and reinforce its commitment to being inclusive. Members of the EBI Council were engaged in discussions about where future conferences could be held, and the impact location has on member participation. These discussions are also being had at the Board leadership level as well, prompting a focus to develop materials to better guide venue decisions for the organization moving forward. I encourage you to complete the recently distributed Climate Survey. Our intention is to better understand membership perspectives on how we are living up to our commitment to be an inclusive organization for professionals that work with family members? And the EBI Council is also discussing how we may support our members who live and work in states where this type of legislation is in effect. It does not look like these trends are going away any time soon. This may sound like a promotion for what AHEPPP is doing. But it is important for people to know that ALL its members are supported and that they are seen and heard. These are challenging times for many people in higher education. But we can work through it by being aware of what is happening and supporting each other. We all need to!

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