FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill targeting diversity, equity and inclusion policies and what some call “discriminatory concepts” endorsed at Kentucky public universities moves forward in the state Senate.

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Bill 6 passed the senate education committee Thursday after an hour and a half of discussion

  • If passed, the bill would prohibit diversity, equity and inclusion practices and so-called "discriminatory concepts" from being used in public university admissions and hiring

  • The bill does not ban diversity training or instruction so long as it doesn't include "discriminatory concepts" defined in the bill 

  • SB 6 will get its first reading to the full Senate Friday

Senate Bill 6 passed the Senate education committee and will now be read on the full Senate floor. The bill lays out 16 discriminatory concepts that its sponsor says cannot be a part of a university’s admissions or hiring practices. However, the bill would not prohibit diversity training as long as it does not endorse one of those concepts.

Some of the bill’s so-called divisive concepts include concepts that one race is superior or inferior to another, a person is racist subconsciously or consciously based on their race, and that Kentucky or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.

“Nearly half of the large universities in America require those seeking faculty positions to submit statements confirming their commitment to particular DEI principles,” said State Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

Wilson’s bill brought a packed house of supporters and opponents to the Senate’s education committee meeting. One supporter, Rebekah Keith, said she aced every part of her interview to be a resident assistant at the University of Kentucky except the justice, equity, diversity and inclusion portion.

“I was told that because I am white presenting, I had probably not had to think about how I present myself, unlike other non-white students,” Keith said.

Keith told the committee how a professor told her she broke the student code of conduct by stating her belief that there are only two genders.

It’s actions like these that are taken at UK to try to force people to bend the knee ideologically and force them to not speak up about what they really believe,” Keith said.

Wilson introduced a new version of the bill this week, which includes provisions to student orientations. It would require public universities to post student orientation materials publicly online.

The new version also takes out a provision allowing students or employees to sue a university. It replaces it with a provision allowing the attorney general to bring a civil order against a university that commits unlawful DEI practices.

Wilson’s amended bill also requires syllabi and course descriptions to be publicly available online. A new section also prohibits an institution from dis-inviting a speaker because the anticipated speech would be considered “offensive, conservative or liberal.”

Similar measures have passed in Tennessee, Texas and Florida. Opponents of these measures say this opens the door for attacks on minorities and a greater presence of white supremacy on college campuses.

“All these people through their carelessness or cowardice are making it more and more acceptable to attack Black men, women, children educationally, politically and physically,” said Kumar Rashad, Kentucky’s 2024 teacher of the year.

Wilson’s bill does not prohibit a university from supporting diversity initiatives and training but cannot include what Wilson calls discriminatory concepts.

“We want that in our universities, we want diversity of thought and critical thought,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s bill received 12 yes votes, with the two Democrats voting against it. The bill should pass favorably from the full senate.

Jay Blanton, chief communication officer for the University of Kentucky, sent a statement that reads: “We are taking the appropriate time to review it and, as with any legislation impacting higher education, will engage in discussions with legislators, policymakers and our campus. We are a campus steadfastly committed to ensuring that we are a place of belonging for everyone, as well as a community dedicated to the fundamental academic value and principle of open inquiry and the free exchange of ideas. Those ideas are not only compatible, but essential, to who we are and what we do as Kentucky’s university.”

John Karman, executive director of communications at the University of Louisville, sent Spectrum News 1 a statement that reads: “UofL prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive. We value diversity of all kinds, including diversity of thought, opinion and expression. Our university leadership is working with the Council on Postsecondary Education and our partner institutions across the state to monitor these bills. Together, we’ll work with our elected officials in Frankfort on legislation that best serves our students, faculty, staff and the greater community.”