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Closing and reorganizing LGBTQ+ and women's resource centers at the University of Utah under new law

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The University of Utah said some of its student resource centers will soon be closed or otherwise reorganized once House Bill 261 is passed — “Equal opportunities initiatives“ – comes into force on 1 July.

“Under HB 261 'Equal Opportunity Initiatives,' student services must be available to all students and may not be provided to individual students based on 'personal identity characteristics,'” the university said in a press release.

HB 261 was signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox in January 2024and prohibits universities, government employers and the public education system from “taking certain measures and engaging in discriminatory practices”.

To comply with the new law, the University of Utah will close three existing resource centers – the Center for Equity and Student Belonging, the Women's Resource Center and the LGBT Resource Center. These resources will then be reorganized into two different “centralized centers,” the university said.

“As we evaluated how best to comply with the legislation, I want to make clear that we faced very difficult decisions,” Lori McDonald, vice president for student affairs, said in the press release.

The University of Utah also announced that it will centralize additional resources for students in its new Center for Student Access and Resources, including counseling, mental health and wellness services, and scholarship coordination.

The university also plans to establish a new Community and Cultural Engagement Center, pending approval by the Utah Board of Higher Education, that will focus on cultural education and celebration, among other things.

Over and beyond American Indian Resource Center will change its name to the Center for Native Excellence and Tribal Engagement. This center will continue to work with tribal peoples.

“The law and subsequent policies require a fundamental change in how we approach supporting students, and we will comply with the law,” McDonald said. “It's not about changing the words we use; it's about changing how we approach the work.”

Another resource that remains open is the Building of the Black Cultural Center in Fort Douglaswhich will be a “community meeting place”.

While some of the centers will be closed and relocated, the university said no positions have been eliminated, but some work and job descriptions will change. The university also said it will continue to celebrate the heritage months of Juneteenth, Pride Week, Women's Week and Martin Luther King Jr. Week.

“As this new organization takes shape, I am confident that our students, faculty and staff will continue to receive the personalized support and services they need to thrive and succeed as we foster an ongoing culture of caring,” said Provost Mitzi Montoya.

Anna Harden

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