Wilson bill targets universities and ‘divisive concepts’

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Over a hundred bills were introduced Tuesday on the first day of the 2024 Kentucky General Assembly, but one in particular stood out.

Senate Bill 6 would limit the ability of public colleges and universities to require students and employees to support one or more of a series of so-called “divisive concepts.”

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, is sponsoring the bill.

What are ‘divisive concepts?’

The divisive concepts listed in the bill are mostly concerned with ideas about race and gender.

The “divisive concepts” include the ideas that:

  • one race or sex is inherently superior or inferior to another;
  • an individual is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive based on their race or sex, either consciously or subconsciously;
  • an individual should be discriminated against because of their race or sex;
  • an individual’s moral character is determined by their race or sex;
  • an individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the part by other members of the same race or sex
  • an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of their race or sex
  • a meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress another; and
  • Kentucky or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.

The divisive concepts also include any promotion of the “violent overthrow of the U.S. government” or resentment of a particular race, sex, religion, creed, political affiliation or social class.

Additionally, they include the concept that all Americans are not created equal with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the idea that the rule of law doesn’t exist, but instead is “a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups.”

Finally, the divisive concepts can include any concepts that include race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating – assigning fault, blame or bias to one racial group or sex.

What would the bill do?

Under this bill, public postsecondary education institutions would not be allowed to penalize any student or employee that refuses to ascribe to any of the listed concepts.

Institutions wouldn’t be allowed to ask prospective students or employees, current employees or candidates for promotion or tenure about their support or opposition to these concepts.

They also wouldn’t be allowed to conduct mandatory trainings that include any of the concepts, or use training programs and materials that include them.

If an institution violates these rules, a student or employee or other aggrieved party can sue for damages of at least $1,000 up to $100,000, per violation.

According to the current bill, this would not prevent institutions from promoting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the framework of the bill.

It would also not prevent students or employees from answering questions about these divisive concepts, as long as their answer “does not endorse or advocate for divisive concepts.”

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.