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WSU’s LGBTQ+ Center and other offices set to close, merge services after anti-DEI law’s passage

The varied student services will merge under the new Student Success Center

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 14, 2024

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

The Weber State University campus in Ogden is pictured Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

OGDEN -- A resource center for marginalized students at Weber State University will be closing soon along with other similar offices in response to legislation passed recently by the Utah Legislature.

On July 1, WSU will shutter its LGBTQ+ Center along with similar services due to House Bill 261, which targeted diversity, equity and inclusivity, or DEI, initiatives. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Katy Hall, R-South Ogden.

According to an email from spokesperson Bryan Magaña, the LGBTQ+ Center has been in operation for less than a decade.

"The LGBTQ+ Center started as the LGBT Resource Center back in 2015," he said. "The center provides additional education and resources to students, along with training for faculty and staff. They also engage in mentorship and community events."

However, H.B. 261, dubbed "Equal Opportunity Initiatives," took an unfavorable posture toward diversity initiatives in higher education and other public institutions, banning them from "taking certain actions and engaging in discriminatory practices."

In an email from the Utah State Auditor's Office detailing how to report violations of the bill, State Auditor John Dougall claimed that DEI initiatives don't accomplish their goals.

"Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives claim to create more inclusive, equitable environments in workplaces and educational institutions," he said. "Whatever their good intentions, many DEI initiatives become tools of virtue signaling and can stifle diversity while promoting discrimination. DEI statements can essentially become ideological litmus tests, stifling diversity, equity, and inclusion. They can discourage certain applicants from considering possible employment and could impose excessive and improper speech control. That's one reason why I've collaborated with state officials nationwide to challenge ESG and DEI initiatives that can impair government operations, distort financial markets, and hinder investments."

As reported by Utah News Dispatch, the auditor's office received at least 18 false complaints about violations of the law within the first 24 hours of its new online hotline being active.

The Signpost, WSU's student news service, reported that several other offices at WSU will also shutter, including the Black Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, Hispanic & Latino Cultural Center, Pan-Asian Cultural Center, Pasifika Cultural Center, Dream Center and the Women's Center.

Magaña said this change won't mean that people running those centers will be terminated or that services will be completely cut off to students.

"Thankfully, nobody in the cultural centers will lose their jobs, but their jobs won't look the same," he said. "Those who oversaw the cultural centers will now work in the Student Success Center as Student Engagement Program Managers, charged with providing individualized support to students, focusing on their academic, personal and professional development. They can point students to resources both on and off campus, and they'll also help bring in programs and events that cultivate a sense of belonging and community."

He said the Student Success Center has several goals, including:

  • Increase retention and persistence rates to improve overall degree completion.
  • Foster a sense of community and interpersonal/intercultural connections through programming and spaces.
  • Establish peer-to-peer and professional-to-student mentoring experiences.
  • Provide individualized student coaching and navigational resources.
  • Promote community service and engagement opportunities for students.

"Weber State is taking a more personalized approach to student success based on an individual's unique skills, circumstances and challenges," Magaña said. "Everyone walks onto this campus with their own story, and things like family, income and identity can often shape how they approach college. Whatever their circumstances, we want to help them navigate Weber State and make their mark here."

The new center, he added, will still help students with their needs.

"Some students are discouraged about the closing of this center and other identity-based centers, but our goal with this new model is to make sure our students are being served as individuals, rather than focusing on broad identity categories that don't always speak to the strengths and challenges of each person," he said. "For some, this will feel like a big change, but we're really falling back on what Weber State has always been known for, that personal touch where faculty and staff know your name, know those areas where you excel and where you could use a little extra help. That's what has made us stand out for the past 135 years, and that's what we're aiming for in the future."


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