By Anna Williams

On Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, Kentucky House Representative Jennifer Decker filed a bill that would seek to dissolve all diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, offices, and staff in Kentucky high education by June 30, 2024.

This means that scholarship programs aimed at diversifying the University of Louisville, a predominantly white institution, could face removal from the university, as it is deemed their initiatives aren’t important enough to stay.

As a black woman in the Woodford R. Porter Scholars Program, a program aimed at increasing diversity at the U of L and supporting diverse students, I was appalled at the fact my program could be removed from the university.

Part of House Bill 9 aims to prevent public universities from requiring students and faculty to state ideologies, such as race, when applying to universities. 

Alt. Text: Representative Jennifer Decker, filer of House Bill 9

Representative Jennifer Decker (R, Shelby), sponsor of House Bill 9

The bill aims to “…prohibit a public postsecondary education institution from providing differential treatment or benefits on the basis of an individual’s religion, race, sex, color, or national origin; from influencing the composition of the student body or scholarship recipients on the basis of religion, race, sex, color, or national origin.”

Without the ability to indicate students are of African American descent, for example, there would be no need for a program like the Porter Scholars Program to exist, leading to its removal and the loss of many Black students’ opportunity to attend college.

My mother, now a successful state contractor, wouldn’t have been able to attend college without debt without the scholarship she received from the Porter Scholars Program.

“My parents would’ve been in extreme debt if I wasn’t awarded the Porter Scholars Program scholarship in 1990,” she informed me.

The Porter Scholars Program currently supports over 500 students of Black or African American descent. To remove a program that was established in 1984 with the sole purpose is disturbingly ignorant.

I am not the only Porter Scholar who is concerned about the future of her scholarship status at U of L. Alexis Cammack is a Juris Doctorate candidate at the Brandeis School of Law. She publicly opposes the bill and disagrees with how the university has spoken on the legislation. 

“Not only will this legislation affect minority groups on campus, but it will also affect the ability to learn about different cultures and experiences outside of one’s own,” she said. “It has the potential to set all public secondary education institutions back to a pre-civil rights era and places an unconstitutional hindrance on 1st Amendment free speech rights endowed upon students and universities from the United States Constitution.”

I agree with Cammack: this legislation will reverse everything that generations before us fought for.

I am elated that President Schatzel has commented against legislation like House Bill 9. Having her support in this fight is refreshing, as she has remained opaque about many meaningful issues, in the past.

“I strongly believe that you cannot deliver a high-quality university education without a diverse classroom and campus–inclusive of all demographics, identities, and ideologies.”

For collegiate opportunities for African America, young adults to remain present, House Bill 9 cannot pass. This bill threatens the work that so many civil rights activists have established over the years, especially in the education regime. I fear the future of African American success, specifically, if this bill were to pass.

Photo Courtesy // Kentucky General Assembly