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Jacksonville State announces closure of DEI office

This is the first publicly known action from an Alabama university responding to the state’s new anti-DEI law.

Bibb Graves Hall, framed by the first blooms of Spring, April 1, 2010. (Steve Latham/JSU)
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Jacksonville State University is closing its Office of Diversity and Inclusion in response to Alabama’s new laws prohibiting certain DEI programs, the college announced Wednesday.

“This decision was not made lightly but is necessary to ensure compliance with the new legal framework imposed by Act 2024-34,” JSU President Don Killingsworth Jr. wrote in an email to students and staff Wednesday.

JSU is the first university to announce such changes in an attempt to comply with the new legislation, which takes effect Oct. 1.

The office only has two staff positions, and the college noted that neither employee will be laid off due to the dissolution of the office.

“All current employees within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion have been offered and have accepted positions in other areas across campus,” Killingsworth wrote. “The decision to close the office ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline, as mandated by the state, is to ensure these employees have sufficient time to transition to their new roles before the flurry of the fall semester begins.

“As we undergo this transition we reaffirm our commitment to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of the Jax State community.”

Other campuses have been discussing what actions, if any, to take in the wake of the new law, which prohibits certain “divisive concepts” from being taught and also requires college campuses to limit bathrooms to individuals based on sex assigned at birth.

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“It is important to note that SB 129 defines divisive concepts and DEI programs in specific terms, and it offers several exceptions for accreditation requirements, academic freedom, medical and mental health care, research, recruiting and outreach, and a host of other areas,” the University of Alabama presidents wrote in a March statement. “Please look to official university communications for guidance as we continue to assess the legislation.”

The bill does not include provisions for civil or criminal penalties in violation of the law, although the Legislature could choose to sanction schools that flout the law through the budgetary process in future legislative sessions.

The JSU office has previously offered support groups for LGBTQ+ students, diversity training for staff and other events celebrating minority groups on campus.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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