SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers have approved several amendments to the state budget centered around diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We’re not going to authorize the use of taxpayer dollars to promote the various components of the problematic version of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Representative Doug Richey said.
Richey, a Republican from the 38th District spearheaded the changes this week.
The amendments, added to several agencies, says “No funds shall be expended for staffing, vendors, consultants or programs associated with ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion,’ or ‘Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging,’ or any other initiative which similarly promotes: 1) the preferential treatment of any individual or group of individuals based upon race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, national origin or ancestry; 2) the concept that disparities are necessarily tied to oppression; 3) collective guilt ideologies; 4) intersectional or divisive identity activism; or, 5) the limiting of freedom of conscience, thought or speech. This does not prohibit the department from following federal and state employment and anti-discrimination laws.”
KOLR10 spoke to Dr. Algerian Hart, the Interim Chief Diversity Officer at Missouri State University about what could change if the bill is signed into law.
Hart says with many more steps to go in the legislative process, there is a sense of “guarded optimism.”
“Any time you’re looking at diversity and access and it’s being packaged in a manner that maybe is exclusive instead of inclusive, it can be a situation where there’s a lot of misunderstanding,” Hart said.
According to Hart, students at MSU have expressed interest in the amendment.
“I think students are concerned in the sense of what is factual, what is actual, what’s going to be a hindrance for [the student] in terms of will it impact [them] academically,” Hart said. “Some of the courses that [they’re] interested in, will it impact even a faculty member deciding that they may want to leave?”
Hart says there’s more clarity needed from lawmakers as the budget makes its way to the state Senate.
“We have folks up in Jeff City who are working diligently with senators to try to come to a better resolution,” Hart said. “As things are written, it is a precarious stance right now because there’s just a lot of unknown. There have been students who are actively engaged in the process, and so they’re wanting to better understand how the political ideology works and how that really impacts their day to day.”
Richey says the move is better for state departments despite critics.
“No one has a problem with making sure everyone feels included, but when you put those three terms together, the way that right now the left is doing, we do have a very, very problematic set of expectations and assumptions that are built into that,” Richey said. “It actually is stoping racism because, again, at the heart of the [diversity, equity and inclusion] movement is a racist component, because when you adopt the anti-racist agenda within the DEI, they are using racism to combat racism, and I, for one, reject that concept that that’s dangerous and we should never do anything that’s racist.”