Thank you to Madison King for helping with this article! You’re amazing, and you’re going to do incredible things!


In 2023 alone, at least 65 bills were introduced that fought against the implementation and continuation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in schools, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. These bills targeted DEI at all levels of education, including higher education. They come at the same time as the June 2023 decision made by the Supreme Court that resulted in the death of affirmative action, a policy that has helped millions of students of color get into college by fighting against systemic discrimination in the admissions process. Decisions such as these, which use the law to target and attack marginalized groups, come as a shock for some and a relief for others. But why is DEI such a problem, what even is it, and how will its end affect universities and individuals nationwide?


To begin, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives work to target three main areas within a university, training, organizational policies and practices, and organizational culture, in order to improve and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, according to ABC News. It is through these three areas where students of all races, genders, sexualities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds can feel welcomed and included on campus. These initiatives are also meant to address and correct past inequities, such as groups being left out of the college process or being met with discrimination and hatred without support or policy to address the issues.


Not only does DEI provide policies, training, and practices, but it allows for a safe environment for students of color to thrive in a space that historically hasn’t been welcoming. In order to accomplish this, organizations such as Black Student Unions help to use DEI to directly support and foster a safe environment for students of color.


“Students of color need and deserve to have a safe space on campus, which is why myself and the other execs/members in Black Student Union want to continue to grow our organization and provide that source of comfort and safety for Black students on campus,” says Madison King, a senior at UE and the president of the Black Student Union.


Not only does DEI benefit students of color and other minority students, but also those who do not belong to those groups.


“DEI is not just important for supporting underrepresented groups, but it is also a necessity for educating those who are not directly impacted by the issues that Affirmative Action was put in place to help reduce,” King says.


So, if it is so beneficial, then why is there such an uproar about it? Why are policies such as DEI and affirmative action being struck down at every level? This is a question many people, especially students in minority groups, have been wrestling with. For some, DEI and affirmative action seem like nothing more than an attack against white people, straight people, cisgender people, men, and others in majority groups. This cannot be farther from the truth.


“I think the attack on DEI will have a huge negative impact on the sense of belonging for students of color across the nation,” King adds. In commenting on her experience further, she says, “I could not imagine what my experience would have been like coming to a predominantly white institution (PWI) without having made the prior connection to my advisors and peers within the Fellows Scholars Program.”


The Fellows Scholars Program was “a scholarship program for Black and LatinX students,” as King says. A program that used DEI to address inequality that has fostered a supportive and welcoming community for many students of color. A program that many people saw as a “threat.” A program that no longer exists with the death of affirmative action. What would higher education look like without diversity? What would lower education look like without diversity?


“Since coming to college, I have heard so many people say that they come from a small town and did not experience diversity, or issues related to it, until they got to college.” 


King expresses a sentiment that I, too, have heard among UE’s halls. There are so many students who have never experienced diversity before coming to college and can see and befriend students of all races, genders, sexualities, religions, abilities, etc. Without DEI and policies like affirmative action, this process becomes incredibly hard, if not impossible.


“Without this, students who are still being impacted by these issues will not have the same opportunity to attend a private liberal arts university as someone who has benefited from generational wealth,” King says.


It is clear that the removal of DEI leads to detrimental consequences for minority students, as well as everyone else. It removes the purposefully established safe spaces, resources, policies, and practices for students of color. It strips the connections between students of different backgrounds. It hides a history of hurt, trauma, and inequality that the U.S. has fostered to this day. The removal of DEI is not fair, and it does not help white students. It only harms everyone involved.


While the fight for DEI and affirmative action may seem impossible, there is hope. This becomes especially important in our generation, a generation that has had to push and fight through barriers like none other before us.


“Overall, allies and the broader university should continue to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups.  It is so important for the university to encourage dialogue around DEI even though those conversations can be uncomfortable,” King emphasizes. 


As she says, allies and the universities, including UE, have an important role in maintaining relationships and preserving safe spaces for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, female students, disabled students, and many others.


“The university should address the diversity gap by having support programs, increasing financial aid opportunities and pushing for more diversity within faculty and staff.” King continued with “I hope that the university as a whole is just as passionate and supportive in the coming years when students need it most.”


Under the midst of a brutal attack on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the most we can do is fight. Fight for those who are different from us. Fight for equality and for safe, inclusive spaces. Equity is not a threat. It is the least we, as a country, can do.

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