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Kansas takes a stand for intellectual freedom

Kansas enacts FIRE’s model Intellectual Freedom Protection Act, which prohibits mandatory statements on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all other political litmus tests.
Dome of the Kansas State Capital Building in Topeka with the state flag in the foreground

Paul Brady Photography /

In a victory for students, faculty, and applicants of Kansas public institutions of higher education, House Bill 2105 will become law on July 1. The law will ensure that public colleges cannot use political litmus tests, regardless of the issue or the candidate’s views, now or in the future as part of the hiring and review process. HB 2105 is based on FIRE’s model Intellectual Freedom Protection Act

Over the last several years, FIRE has seen more and more colleges require applicants for admission or for faculty appointments, promotion, or tenure to disclose their views on diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI statements are the most common version of political litmus tests that we see on campus today. Data shows that institutions often use a candidate’s DEI statement as a de facto political litmus test: Say the wrong thing — or decline to say anything at all — and an institution will reject a candidate even before it reviews the merits of the candidate’s application. As we wrote about DEI statements:

[T]he typical DEI statement policy is not concerned merely with a faculty member’s relevant scholarship or the laudable goal of ensuring faculty refrain from discrimination or work toward the success of all of their students, regardless of identity. Many policies invade faculty members’ freedom of conscience, prying into their private beliefs on matters of public concern. They compel faculty to express or demonstrate commitment to the university’s viewpoints or to conform their pedagogy, research, and/or service activities to specific ideological perspectives. Others are so vague they raise serious concerns that the lack of sufficient guardrails will allow improper viewpoint discrimination to creep into the evaluation process. 

HB 2105 prohibits this practice by stating: 

No postsecondary educational institution shall condition admission or educational aid to an applicant for admission, hiring an applicant for employment or hiring, reappointing or promoting a faculty member, on the applicant's or faculty member's pledging allegiance to or making a statement of personal support for or opposition to any political ideology or movement, including a pledge or statement regarding diversity, equity or inclusion, or to request or require any such pledge or statement from an applicant or faculty member.

The bill also requires all public colleges in Kansas to: 

post and make publicly available on such institution’s website all training materials used for students, faculty, and staff on all matters of nondiscrimination, diversity, equity, inclusion, race, ethnicity, sex or bias and all of such institution’s policies and guidance on such matters.

This requirement will allow the public to better understand the materials used in official orientation programming and anti-discrimination training to ensure transparency regarding the values, policies, and practices of these institutions.

FIRE applauds Rep. Steven Howe for sponsoring this important legislation. Kansas public higher education is better off with HB 2105’s enactment. 

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