Main Navigation

U working to preserve essential student support efforts

With new state guidelines for diversity efforts on campus slated to take effect this summer, University of Utah leaders are working to modify the functions and reassign the personnel of the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The division will be eliminated on July 1.

Under HB 261, state colleges and universities must disband centralized offices dedicated to “equity, diversity and inclusion”—replacing them with an institution-wide focus on all students’, staff and faculty members’ success, regardless of “personal identity characteristics.”

“We will embed the same dedication and purpose we have always had for ensuring that every member of the University of Utah community feels a sense of welcome and opportunity across our campus,” said Taylor Randall, president. “While some things will change, our commitment to ensuring the success of each of our students will not.”

For the full-time employees working in the division’s main campus office and U of U Health’s Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, this shift may mean changing job titles, broadening some job descriptions and reassignment to other campus offices. Many student support staffers will shift to positions in Student Affairs. Communications and marketing staff will move to University Marketing and Communications. And Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal will become a special advisor to President Randall.

The core mission of student resource centers—supporting the success of all University of Utah students—will not change. Student resource centers will be reorganized under Student Affairs to align with the mission of ensuring students’ academic success, physical and mental well-being, and sense of community are supported. The U will continue to celebrate all students and their unique life experiences, belief systems and heritages.

“This is a profound year in higher education—across our country, here in Utah, and on our campus,” said Lori McDonald, vice president for Student Affairs. “The ultimate goal of student success—building community, learning from each other, being here for them and for each of us—does not change. I have no doubt this group of dedicated and creative student support leaders will be able to continue their work to create opportunity for all students in innovative and collaborative ways.”

Read McDonald’s message to student affairs and EDI staff here.

Student resource center staff who served in the division—including the American Indian Resource Center, Black Cultural Center, Center for Equity and Student Belonging and Dream Center—also will shift to report up through Student Affairs.

Under new state law, student resource centers still will be able to pursue their core work of supporting students from historically marginalized groups, so long as they make their services available to all students. Rather than defining those served at the centers by race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation or identity, student resource centers will be open to all.

Villarreal reminded directors of student resource centers at a meeting last week of their impact. “You are phenomenal. You have done incredible work. You will continue to do incredible work.”

University leaders are conducting a thorough review of the people, programs and projects that have been dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion efforts across campus. Additional guidance for programming, classroom instruction and student engagement will be released in the weeks ahead in conjunction with guidance from the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) in consultation with state lawmakers.