Employee Guidance

Student Recruitment

Impacts to Recruiting Students from Diverse Backgrounds

HB261 does not restrict recruitment efforts. The university should continue reaching out to all communities in Utah to create access to higher education broadly, and expand the economic benefits from higher education to all Utahns. Final admissions decisions cannot consider personal identity characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Academic Course Instruction

HB261 does not affect classroom instruction or research. Both areas are specifically excluded. Instructors may discuss race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or related topics as part of their course instruction. HB261 protects academic freedom and does not affect relevant course-related assignments, research, or instruction.

Requirement to Post Syllabi for Mandatory Courses and Trainings

The Office of General Counsel is coordinating the effort to collect and publish information about mandatory courses and trainings. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Use of a DEI Statement in Course Syllabi

Professors may include a statement related to inclusive excellence if it pertains to academic course instruction. To ensure compliance with HB261, the following statement on critical thinking could be used:

"This university-level course is designed to encourage critical thinking and discussion of new ideas and concepts from various frameworks. The course will strive to foster an environment where each class member respects others. It is vital that each class member respects the expression of different worldviews and experiences by classmates in class. The intent is to serve students from all backgrounds and perspectives, addressing their learning needs and valuing the different backgrounds and perspectives students bring to the class.”

The Use of Preferred Pronouns or Preferred Names

You are welcome to provide the opportunity for all students to share their preferred name, pronouns, or other information about how they would like to be addressed in a learning environment or workplace. However, you cannot require students or employees to provide their preferred pronouns, use the preferred pronouns of others, attend a training on the use of preferred pronouns, or provide preferential treatment based on pronouns preferred by a student or employee.

Accreditations and Grants

External Grants with DEI Requirements

Sponsored research is excluded from HB261. Other sponsored activities, such as non-research sponsored contracts and grants that require deliverables inconsistent with HB261 will require review and approval by university leadership and the USU Board of Trustees.

USU Grants for Internal Use

Internal grants from USU cannot require or sponsor “discriminatory practices,” as defined in Utah Code section 53B-1-118.

DEI Accreditation Requirements

There is a limited exception in HB261 for programs required for accreditation. Please be transparent with accrediting bodies about HB261 and its impacts, explaining that:

  • USU is responding to state legislation affecting its approach to DEI work.
  • The institution is shifting its efforts to fostering environments where all faculty and students feel welcome and have opportunities to succeed.
  • Consult with Legal Affairs on specific accreditation and DEI requirements.

Data Collection and Institutional Research

Collection and Use of Demographic Data

Demographic data collection is not addressed by HB261. However, it is important that internal demographic data be used primarily for analysis purposes. Data regarding personal identity characteristics may not be used in connection with admissions, hiring, promotion, or other advancement opportunities. Wherever possible, suggest making demographic data questions optional, and especially those questions regarding personal identity characteristics.

Student Academic Achievement

Use of Student Data to Identify and Serve At-risk Students

Institutional data demonstrating that a particular population of students is at risk of not enrolling or completing at rates to be expected given the service region and institutional mission, can be used to identify gaps and serve students. However, actions, initiatives, programs, or other resources established to advance goals meet several criteria:

  • Be aligned with the principles described of HB261 and this guidance.
  • Be based on an individualized assessment of a student’s needs.
  • Not be based on personal identity characteristics.
  • Must not include undertaking prohibited discriminatory practices.

Support for Student in External Groups

Faculty and staff may write a letter of recommendation for a student who is applying for a position or internship with an external group focused on race, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For example, a letter of recommendation for a summer internship with the NAACP would be permitted.

Guidance on Trainings

Prohibited DEI Trainings

HB261 prohibits mandatory trainings entitled “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” or that contain certain concepts such as assertions that an individual is inherently privileged, oppressed, racist, sexist, etc. whether consciously or unconsciously. Trainings also cannot assert that an individual should be advanced or receive beneficial treatment because of their race, color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or gender identity, etc. This includes for in-person or online seminars, discussion groups, workshops, other programs, or related materials.

Compliance guidance from the Utah System of Higher Education also provides that trainings (and policies, procedures, practices, offices or initiatives) cannot assert that:

  • An individual's moral character is determined by the individual's personal identity characteristics.
  • An individual, by virtue of the individual's personal identity characteristics, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other individuals with the same personal identity characteristics.
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or other psychological distress solely because of the individual's personal identity characteristics.
  • Meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
  • Socio-political structures are inherently a series of power relationships and struggles among racial groups.

Optional Trainings

USU does not mandate DEI trainings. However, individual units that develop their own trainings should review them to ensure they do not include discriminatory practices defined in HB261. Optional trainings are not covered by the bill, but attendance must be truly optional without adverse consequences for non-attendance.

Trainings Required by HB261

HB261 requires institutions to train faculty and staff on academic freedom and freedom of speech, as well as on the separation of personal political advocacy from institutional business and employment. In the future, USU will provide these trainings as a part of its annual compliance training program. 

Programs and Events

Events with Themes of Inclusive Excellence

University units may host events or programs addressing cultural education, celebration, engagement, and awareness as long as events do not promote preferential treatment of any particular group and are open to everyone. 

Recognition of Heritage or Cultural Observances?

University units may recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and similar cultural observances. The emphasis should generally focus on history and culture. These events must not show preference for any one group over another, must be open to everyone, and cannot mandate attendance for students or employees.

Guest Speakers and Performers Who Conduct DEI Programming

The legislation does not apply to short-term guest speakers or performers. The university can host them under usual policies, provided attendance is not mandatory. The university encourages programming to offer different perspectives. See USU's policy 541 on Free Expression and Assembly, section 2.4.


Use of Words “Diversity,” “Equity,” and “Inclusion”

Under USHE's compliance guidance, "Institutions may not have non-teaching, non-research clubs or organizational units, or positions named with any combination of the words 'diversity, equity, and inclusion'. This includes divisions, vice presidents, chief diversity officers, or student government positions related to diversity, equity, or inclusion, personal identity characteristics, or any divisions, officers, positions, units, initiatives, committees, programs, practices, policies, or procedures established to coordinate, create develop, design, implement, organize, plan, or promote prohibited discriminatory practices." 

Instead, use descriptive phrases that emphasize the goals and priorities of the programs. University officials encourage personnel to focus on framing programs in terms of success—student success, faculty success, staff success, and community success. Specific examples of words that might be appropriate based on the endeavor’s goals include: “equal opportunity,” “all backgrounds,” “social mobility,” “student well-being,” “differing viewpoints,” and “belonging.”

DEI on University Websites and Official USU Social Media Channels

DEI information promoting differential treatment, as referenced in HB261, is prohibited. University units and colleges must also avoid using the full phrase “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in connection with any policy, procedure, practice program, office, initiative, or required training, as required by the plain language of HB261. Information across the university website should use USU’s inclusive excellence framework, which focuses on bringing people together, providing cultural learning opportunities, and supporting the success of all students.

University websites may include references to identity-driven professional organizations as long as the organizations are not given preferential treatment and if the posting is not promoting an opportunity limited to individuals based on their identity characteristics. Listing all relevant organizations for programs like, Structural Engineers Association of Utah as well as Society of Women Engineers on a list of engineering organizations is compliant with HB261.

Featuring Identity-driven Student Organizations on USU websites or Materials

Organizations can be featured if they are non-discriminatory and open to all. This all-inclusive message should be conveyed up front, such as having the website’s landing page say: “This program welcomes everyone regardless of age, color, disability, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Our program provides learning opportunities to all participants.”

Recognizing Cultural Celebrations

Nothing in HB261prevents leadership from recognizing the existence, history, and/or importance of cultural celebrations, such as Juneteenth. However, caution should be taken to avoid differential treatment of campus community members on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, or any other protected category. Programming for cultural celebrations should be grounded in pluralism and celebrate all cultures. They must also be open to all.

Hiring and Promotion

USU’s Current Hiring Practices

Utah State does not discriminate or tolerate discrimination based on a person’s identity. USU’s practices in hiring are aimed at casting a wide net to attract the best candidates possible and conduct a fair and equitable review of candidates. USU is an equal opportunity employer and does not use quotas nor hire on the basis of personal identity characteristics.

Prohibited Practices in Hiring

The university began phasing out the practice of requesting or using diversity statements in the hiring process in spring 2023. This practice is no longer permitted. Search committees should also exercise caution in the questions they ask a candidate. According to compliance guidance provided by the Utah System of Higher Education, "Ideally, questions should not categorize students or employees by classification."

Allowed Practices in Hiring

The university may post jobs in a wide variety of forums and search committees are encouraged to recruit broadly to include a varied group of applicants. Job postings may state that candidates from all backgrounds or all populations are encouraged to apply. However, the final hiring decision must be based on the best qualifications of the candidates in the pool, without considering race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin.

In addition, HB261 does not prohibit asking applicants about their experience teaching first-generation college-students, low-income students, or underserved student populations. USHE provides the following examples of allowable questions:

  • What is your experience in, philosophy about, or plan for supporting students?
  • How do you reach students where they are?
  • How have you been effective reaching students of different backgrounds?
  • Describe your teaching philosophy.

Hiring Guidance

Supervisors and search managers may continue to reach out to Human Resources if they have questions about inclusive hiring. Search committees and hiring managers should also use the hiring guidance provided by HR.