Utah auditor's office creates 'hotline form' for reports of alleged violations of diversity law

Former Utah GOP Chairman James Evans speaks in favor of HB261 as bill sponsor Rep. Katy Hall, R-South Ogden, looks on Jan. 22. A form has been created to allow the public to report violations of the state's new diversity law.

Former Utah GOP Chairman James Evans speaks in favor of HB261 as bill sponsor Rep. Katy Hall, R-South Ogden, looks on Jan. 22. A form has been created to allow the public to report violations of the state's new diversity law. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — It's one thing for Utah's government institutions to make administrative and policy changes to comply with the new law that requires an end to initiatives created with the professed goal of promoting diversity.

Making sure change actually occurs at the grassroots level is another matter and, with that in mind, the Utah Office of the State Auditor has created "a hotline form" for the public to report alleged violations of the law, at least portions of it. At the same time, Utah Auditor John Dougall offered his own critical take on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, a key target of HB261.

Such initiatives "claim to create more inclusive, equitable environments in workplaces and educational institutions," Dougall said in a statement this week announcing creation of the form. "Whatever their good intentions, many (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives become tools of virtue-signaling and can stifle diversity while promoting discrimination. (Diversity, equity and inclusion) statements can essentially become ideological litmus tests, stifling diversity, equity and inclusion."

HB261, which does away with diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Utah's public universities, public schools and other public entities, takes effect on July 1, the deadline for implementation of policy adjustments based on the law. The controversial new law, approved during the Utah legislative session earlier this year, also prohibits government employers from requiring so-called diversity statements of job applicants; that is, letters outlining their views on diversity efforts.

Diversity statements, Dougall said, "can discourage certain applicants from considering possible employment and could impose excessive and improper speech control." The Utah Office of State Auditor also noted provisions of HB261 that prohibit governmental employers from making employees go through training that promotes "differential treatment" of people based on their race, ethnicity and other "personal identity characteristics."

While HB261's varied provisions apply to universities and schools, Dougall said the reporting form created by his office will only be for alleged violations as they pertain to state, county, municipal and other government employers as defined in state law. He does not have audit authority over educational institutions, a key target of HB261 provisions and a focus of heated debate by lawmakers and others.

"Complaints regarding those institutions should be directed to either the Utah State Board of Education for K-12 institutions or the Utah Board of Higher Education for colleges, universities and affiliated organizations," he said.

Among other things, HB261 requires that Utah's public universities eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion programming and other initiatives offered to students based on personal identifies like race, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Instead, support programming is to be offered to all students based on need, without regard to their race, ethnicity or other identifiers.

Critics of HB261 had argued that diversity programming is vital to help students of color and others from historically marginalized groups adjust and thrive in the college setting. Officials representing Utah's universities, meantime, have said they are crafting policies to comply with the new law.

The auditor's office will start accepting reports of violations to HB261 via its form on July 1, when the law takes effect.

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Multicultural UtahUtah LegislatureUtah higher educationUtahPoliticsEducation
Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for KSL.com. He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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