There are thousands of students of color and thousands of LGBTQ+ students across Nebraska’s state colleges, community colleges and the University of Nebraska system. These students and generations to follow would be hurt by a new bill targeting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in higher education. 

Here are five things to know about the anti-diversity bill.  

1. This bill focuses on training, but the impact could go further.  

LB 1330 defines DEI programs as any program that requires public college or university employees to attend any kind of training – even orientation – if the program focuses on anything in a huge list of topics related to diversity and belonging. It prohibits public colleges and universities from spending public dollars on the programs and establishing or sustaining offices that coordinate DEI programs. While the bill’s DEI definition hinges on training, its passage would send a chilling message that could interfere with other DEI efforts to support student success, programs already facing significant budget cuts.  

2. Some of the bill’s language is deeply problematic.  

LB 1330 seeks to ban the state’s public universities, state colleges and community colleges from promoting or adopting a range of concepts, including allyship, anti-racism and inclusive language. Also on the list are gender identity and “transgenderism” — a term that has recently been used by trans rights opponents to imply being trans is an ideology rather than an identity. It raises the question: would a university be in violation for simply acknowledging trans students and employees as themselves? 

3. Fourteen senators are cosponsors on the bill.  

All senators need to hear from constituents on this bill, but that’s especially true for the cosponsors: Senators Aguilar, Albrecht, Bostelman, Brewer, Clements, Erdman, Halloran, Hansen, Hardin, Holdcroft, Lippincott, Lowe, Meyer and Murman

4. DEI programs unite us. Bills like this seek to divide us. 

 DEI programs ensure that students are supported with resources and opportunities for success. They promote the fair treatment and participation of all people, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation and beyond - including students of different faiths, abilities and immigration status. The presence of DEI programs ensures that we prioritize and celebrate our differences, not condemn and erase them. 

5. Ultimately, this isn’t state senators’ decision to make.  

Nebraskans already elect officials to handle higher ed policy decisions, including community college boards and the University of Nebraska’s Board of Regents. Almost three years ago, regents rightly voted down a resolution introduced by then-Regent Jim Pillen that would have chilled university conversations related to some of the topics covered in this bill — particularly structural racism. Students were clear and united in their testimony. They said they deserve an education where they can freely learn and talk about the history, experiences and viewpoints of all marginalized communities in this country. 

You have a voice.

A note on process: LB 1330 is currently in committee. If most of the Education Committee votes to refer the bill to the full legislature, it must pass through three rounds of votes before it heads to Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk. Let's not let this harmful legislation advance out of the Education Committee.