5 Impacts of anti-diversity laws on LGBTQ+ people and research in higher education

Last 12 months, nine states banned diversity, equity and inclusion policies and programs in higher education. More than 20 more have similar bills within the works.

There are frequent news reports of job cuts following the adoption of those measures. Places like Texas And FloridaBut this is just a small a part of the various changes that these laws bring about in science.

My recent study with the Williams Institute on the UCLA School of Law examines one segment of academia, LGBTQ+ faculty, and finds that many are disturbed, discouraged, and frightened by the anti-DEI campaign.

From 2023 to 2024 as a researcher with a spotlight LGBTQ+ issues in higher educationI surveyed 84 LGBTQ+ faculty members, most of whom work at public universities. All teach or conduct research on LGBTQ+-related issues, in addition to other issues which are also affected by these anti-DEI measures, resembling sexuality, gender identity, and racism. Two-thirds live in states which have introduced or passed considered one of these laws.

My key takeaway: Although anti-DEI laws remains to be in its infancy, it’s already having chilling effects on each academic freedom and life in academia for LGBTQ+ people. Here are five ways to do it:

1. LGBTQ+ lecturers are less more likely to be “out”

Many of the educators I interviewed expressed fears that they’d develop into more visible, turned against, and blamed due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Two-thirds reported changes of their openness about their LGBTQ+ identity, including being less open in school and sharing less personal information with students. Some have removed their pronouns from their email signatures, now dress “less flamboyantly,” and feel “on guard all the time.”

A typical comment got here from a school member: “I am more cautious when discussing LGBTQ issues in class, and I am more afraid that I will be filmed or that something I say will be used against me.”

Seventeen percent of respondents are less actively engaged on campus than they were before the laws were passed. Their increased vigilance and concern for privacy may also make them less available as LGBTQ+ role models for college kids.

2. Fewer LGBTQ+ resources available on campus

One results of the brand new laws, survey respondents said, is a change or closure of DEI-related training, programs, offices, and other spaces on campus. Such resources are necessary sources of visibility, inclusion, and support for LGBTQ+ students.

In some cases, schools have modified the names and descriptions of existing DEI programs and activities. One faculty member in Texas said, “SB17 the LGBTQ center has disappeared on the campus whose impacts I research.” Another told me, “They don’t want the words diversity or equity or inclusion or racism or sexism or anything like that in public documents or on websites.”

As a result, marginalized students now or soon will lack spaces and resources that explicitly reflect and support their identities.

3. There could also be less research being conducted on LGBTQ+ issues

Sixteen percent of respondents said their LGBTQ+ research was already disrupted, including a decline in members of those groups involved in research, students withdrawing from working on these projects, and difficulties recruiting LGBTQ+ graduate students to collaborate with.

One faculty member said, “My research is on LGBTQ+ mental health with a focus on youth and families. Since restrictive laws were passed, it has been incredibly difficult to recruit youth and families to research in my state. This has had a huge chilling effect.” Another member said, “Trans and nonbinary youth are less willing to participate; they are fed up with attacks and fear being exposed.”

Some faculties, in turn, had modified their research or conducted it with less visibility, for instance by changing the name of their research labs or not presenting their work at conferences.

4. LGBTQ+ people may face increasing hostility

Many participants said the passage of anti-DEI laws coincided with what they saw as increasing hostility toward faculty and students from sexual, gender, or racial minorities. “There is a strong feeling among members of the university community that we are implicitly being excluded from the campus community,” said one respondent.

One-fifth of participants said they were “afraid of being harassed or bullied by colleagues or supervisors because of my sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, my political affiliation, or being perceived as ‘woke.’”

Notably, a number of the faculty members who reported these concerns are employed in states that don’t currently have anti-DEI laws in higher education.

5. LGBTQ+ people could flock to friendlier schools

These laws could also trigger a migration of LGBTQ+ scholars and students to more welcoming states. In my study, LGBTQ+ faculty in DEI-hostile states were greater than 4 times more more likely to wish to move out of state than in states without such laws.

The result’s an inevitable spiral. If LGBTQ+ faculty leave due to these laws, LGBTQ+ students could follow or suffer a reduced quality of education. This will end in fewer LGBTQ+ faculty willing to return out, fewer courses on LGBTQ+ topics, and fewer research on LGBTQ+ issues.

These findings are alarming for individuals who imagine that diverse voices and folks contribute to each good science and a very good campus environment. DEI policies exist to expand opportunities and make college campuses a welcoming place for marginalized groups.

I imagine that thwarting these goals could further polarize the nation into welcoming and unwelcoming regions, with the potential to cost rigorous and meaningful academic research on LGBTQ+ issues in parts of the country where it’s most needed.

image credit : theconversation.com