By Eleanor Ferguson

Disgruntled students, staff, and faculty gathered outside the Red Barn on Monday armed with signs, snacks, and sound equipment to protest Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 9. Those bills are making their way through Frankfort and aim to curb the funding and teaching of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — labeled in the bills as “discriminatory concepts” — at public colleges.

DEI is defined in the bill as any policy that promotes or provides “differential treatment or benefits” on the basis of religion, race, sex, etc. That applies broadly to practices around employment and admission, or conferences and presentations. The bill would ban all scholarships that provide preferential treatment based on race, sex, etc. and affinity housing, where students who may share a religion, race or national identity.

Opponents of the bills here at U of L are afraid it will take aim at funding related to scholarship programs, like the Woodford R. Porter Scholarship, and rid the lessons and teaching related to classes within certain majors and minors.

When the initial speakers were finished, the rally became a march. The crowd of over fifty students grabbed their signs and set off, making their way through campus turning heads with chants of “FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THEIR LIES, WE ARE HERE TO MOBILIZE”. When they reached the steps of Grawemeyer Hall, students chanted, “WE’RE HERE, KIM. WHERE ARE YOU?”

One speaker, undergraduate Elizabeth Hinsdale, is president of Disabled Cards United and Women for Women Student Board.

Hinsdale stated she and many others would not feel safe at U of L, or be there at all, if not for DEI practices. She believes the bill tries to “strip out our education so that we do not have the tools to teach ourselves about the legacy of these systems or their impact on our lives.”

To her, the term “DEI” has replaced “critical race theory” and “wokeism,” because DEI is vague enough that it can be used to target more communities. She thinks the bill is an attempt to put marginalized communities on a “watch list,” make them feel unsafe, and to delegitimize their work.

“(Senate Bill 6) is supposed to be a bill that’s in the interest of students. But what we recognize is conservatives made sure that every single university in our state was on Spring Break when they tried to push these bills through,” Dr. Kalia Story, associate professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said.

“So I ask you, if these bills are the intent of creating more inclusivity and a more supportive environment for students, why rush them through legislation when no students are present, when no students can talk back, when no faculty can issue statements because everyone is out of town?”

U of L President Kim Schatzel, Provost Gerry Bradley, and Vice President for Institutional Equity Lee Gill issued a joint statement an hour before the rally reaffirming the university’s commitment to DEI. The full text is below.

Dear University of Louisville Faculty, Staff and Students,

As a leading R-1 national university, the University of Louisville is unwavering in its commitment to excellence in its instructional and research endeavors. This commitment to academic excellence has, as one of its requisite core pillars, an equally unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

As stated in President Schatzel’s message to campus earlier this semester — and it bears repeating — we firmly believe that you cannot deliver a high-quality university education without a diverse classroom and campus, inclusive of all demographics, identities and ideologies. Only in such circumstances and with such experiences will our students be prepared to foster their own and others’ excellence in a diverse global economy. In short, a diverse and inclusive campus better prepares our students to lead.

We know that ability and ambition is present in all communities throughout Kentucky. But we also know that access to higher education and foundations supportive of student success are not found equally within all those communities. It is our priority, as a national research university and a leader in Kentucky’s higher education sector, to provide a campus that fully supports and holds as a top priority inclusive student success – that is for ALL students, again inclusive of all demographics, identities and ideologies – to successfully complete their degrees.

In keeping with that priority, we remain committed to a relentless pursuit of a campus that removes barriers to access and supports completion of their degrees for ALL our students – inclusive of all races, religions, ethnicities, ages, ideologies and abilities – as well as veterans, LGBTQIA+, refugees, Pell-eligible, first generation, rural, adult learners and others.

This pursuit requires that we provide, as a fundamental and essential obligation of our university, our full support for our faculty and staff as they create culturally and intellectually challenging environments for teaching, learning and research that prepare our students for success as Kentucky’s next generation of health care professionals, writers, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, musicians, first responders, teachers, as well as a host of other fields.

Toward that end and in agreement with Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson and other Kentucky higher education leaders, we cannot, without equivocation, support any legislation that limits the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in support of our highest priority – success for ALL University of Louisville students by completing their degrees.

Kim Schatzel, PhD


Gerry Bradley

Executive Vice President and University Provost

Lee Gill

Vice President for Institutional Equity

Photo Courtesy // Eleanor Ferguson, The Louisville Cardinal