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Under new state law, university transforms diversity efforts

Over the past six months, the University of Utah has reimagined how to create a welcoming campus under a new state law limiting traditional efforts to build diversity.

Everything from the language used to define access and equal opportunity to the structure and operations of student resource centers to the hiring practices used to recruit staff and faculty has changed.

As Utah’s flagship institution of higher education, the U follows state law. At the same time, university leaders remain committed to the core values and mission of the institution. In a February 1 statement to campus, President Taylor Randall, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Michael Good and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mitzi Montoya wrote:

“Every member of our University of Utah community matters. The unique life experiences, perspectives and approach to the work you do make our campus the vibrant place that it is for learning, teaching, conducting research and providing exceptional health care. We will continue to foster a campus community that welcomes everyone.”

The transition to this new way of doing things has been implemented across campus—a complex and, at times, painful process.

Read more below for detailed explanations of each legislative initiative:

Provost Mitzi Montoya noted the impact and history of the student resource centers that are closing—53 years for the Women's Resource Center, 21 for the LGBT Resource Center and more than 50 years for the Center for Equity and Student Belonging and its predecessor, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs—in her "Provost Perspectives" newsletter June 27.

"I recognize that these changes are difficult," said the senior vice president of academic affairs. "However, as this new organization takes shape, I am confident that our students, faculty and staff will continue to receive the personalized support and services they need to thrive and succeed as we foster an ongoing culture of care."

On July 1, HB 261 takes effect. Next year, the university is required to report back to lawmakers and the Board of Higher Education about the institution’s efforts to comply with the new law. Beginning in 2025, the board will conduct reviews of the schools’ compliance and report back to the legislature by Nov. 1 of each year.

"All around us are radical shifts, but as educators, it is our calling to rise to the challenges of the day and find a better way forward," Montoya added. "Our U of U community has not changed. As we lead by example, supporting each other in association and academic excellence, focusing on individualized care for each student, we will foster an environment where every student can excel and reach their full potential, despite the challenges we face."

Additional Resources:

Feb. 1 – University statement on H B261

Feb. 15 – How will university hiring processes change?

Feb. 24 – How will Utah’s 2024 diversity, equity and inclusion law impact campus?

April 19 – U working to preserve essential student support efforts

May 1 – FAQ: Faculty EDI guidance

May 1 – New EDI guidance for campus

June 20 – University reorganizes, closes some student resource centers

List of statements/comments from President Randall