FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky senators are taking aim at diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) policies and other “divisive” concepts endorsed at Kentucky universities. DEI is a structure used by colleges and workplaces for fair treatment, but Republican lawmakers in Kentucky’s senate argue these programs disadvantage certain people from getting admitted to college or hired on-campus.

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Bill 6 would not allow Kentucky universities to ask applicants about specific ideologies or viewpoints that are "divisive concepts" 

  • SB 6 would not ban universities from promoting diversity, equity and inclusion as long as it aligns with their other requirements 

  • Students or employees would be allowed to take legal action against a university if they feel a "divisive" hiring or admissions process was used 

  • Democrat opponents aregue the bill is "ignorant"

Senate Bill 6 defines divisive concepts as a concept that one race is inherently superior to others and that a person based on their race is naturally privileged, racist, or sexist, whether consciously or subconsciously. State Sen, Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, is the primary sponsor of the bill.

“The DEI that we see at our universities, it’s actually become a very divisive thing where we see it in hiring practices, we see it in admission practices,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s bill would not allow Kentucky universities to ask applicants or prospective employees about their specific ideologies or be required to endorse a specific viewpoint.

“They use them in hiring practices that they have to have a DEI statement and if that’s not what they think their DEI statement should be they won’t hire them,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s bill would also allow students and faculty to sue a university for a hiring or admissions process practice they feel was divisive.

“If they feel like they’ve been discriminated against based on this policy, then they can bring a right of action against the university for that,” Wilson said.

Similar action against DEI has been filed in Tennessee and Florida.

“I think that it was a piece of propaganda that’s been used in far-right legislation that’s simply just been refiled here as a divisive issue that’s really filed I hope out of ignorance and not out of hate,” said State Senate Minority Whip, David Yates. D-Louisville.

Yates said if passed, he sees the bill facing legal troubles.

“I think as a lawyer I look at this and I think that you violate a lot of constitutional rights, first amendment and I think there will be some challenges. I think you’re going to cost Kentucky so much time in money and litigation,” Yates said.

Wilson said the bill would not stop universities from promoting diversity, equity and inclusion as long as such efforts are consistent with its other requirements.

“It’s become litmus test of political ideology that they have adhere to in order to be hired, promoted or passed within their major or whatever it is to graduate from college and we’re making sure that doesn’t happen,” Wilson said.

A spokesperson for the University of Kentucky sent Spectrum News 1 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.” 

SB 6 has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, where it’s expected to be discussed at length.