House passes bill on instruction of 'specified concepts' at North Dakota colleges

Bill will go before House Appropriations Committee to resolve $1M appropriation to fund biennial campus climate survey

North Dakota Capitol
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum file photo

BISMARCK — The North Dakota House passed a bill focusing on the instruction of “specified concepts” at institutions of higher learning across the state, 51-40, during its floor session on Monday.

Senate Bill 2247, which passed the Senate 38-6 on Feb. 14, defines specified concepts as those that assert the United States is inherently racist or sexist, that all Americans are not created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, and that meritocracies are oppressive by nature. The bill would prohibit discrimination or disciplinary action against students or faculty for refusing to endorse said concepts.

It received a 7-6 "do not pass" recommendation out of committee.

Speaking in opposition, the bill’s carrier, Rep. Eric Murphy, R-Grand Forks, said its language could prevent the instruction of topics essential for graduate and professional level study.

“Imagine a holistic practice of medicine seminar, that is devoid of all potential specified concepts, yet is essential for physicians in training toward understanding the diversity in religion, culture and practices of the many different patients they will encounter,” he said. “Should they not be educated on the role of the medicine man in one of our Native American citizen’s health care? Where do we draw the line?”


Murphy also said the bill could have adverse effects on universities’ ability to retain and recruit students and faculty.

“Our institutions compete on a national, perhaps even international job market for faculty, and this bill may lessen their ability to be competitive,” he said.

Speaking in support, Rep. Scott Dyk, R-Williston, said the bill is needed to combat diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which he feels are actively promoting “divisive concepts.”

“Why is this bill needed?” he said. “Because the average American university has more than 45 individuals with jobs promoting so-called diversity, equity and inclusion programs that actively push divisive concepts. DEI initiatives violate the law because they expressly favor some demographics to the detriment of others.”

Speaking in opposition, Rep. Jayme Davis, D-Rolette, said the bill is an affront to academic freedom.

“Of all places in this great nation, educational institutions should have the academic freedom to provide quality education that prepares our next generation of scholars to create cutting edge knowledge, no matter how difficult these discussions may be,” she said. “It is up to us to help create an education system that encompasses our past and present, so we don’t repeat our mistakes, and ensure that our future has better treatment for all.”

While he supported the bill as a whole, Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, took issue with the projected cost surrounding the bill’s requirement that all institutions within the North Dakota University System conduct a biennial survey, gauging the campus’ climate regarding diversity of thought.

Kasper said the House Education Committee recently added an amendment appropriating $1 million to fund the study, which he believes can be done internally for free.


“We can very easily take that $1 million out in the Appropriations Committee,” he said. “When you look at the requirement for a survey, I think it would be very easy to do in-house without any cost.”

The House agreed to send the bill to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration. There were three members who did not vote on the legislation.

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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