Cox touted his action on diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Now he says university DEI statements border on ‘evil.’

Here are some highlights of the governor’s statements over the years.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to media during a monthly news conference in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.

When Gov. Spencer Cox took office in January 2021 — and even before that, when he was governor-elect — he made much of his support for the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. He praised the compact’s “firm resolve toward racial justice, a direction toward equity and inclusion that will continue during my administration.”

Almost three years later, the Utah governor recently decried “these diversity statements you have to sign to get hired” at the state’s colleges and universities as “awful, bordering on evil.” (Utah universities say they don’t have such statements, while the governor’s office points to DEI-related submissions required by some job postings.)

Here are highlights of some of the stands Cox has taken on diversity, equity, inclusion and racism since he was elected governor.

Dec. 15, 2020: Praising the compact

Gov.-elect Cox issued a statement endorsing the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “This isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human correctness,” he said. “It’s about kindness, decency and love for our fellow travelers.”

The compact was created after a summer of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of police. Its Utah signers said they “view racism as more than just an individual character flaw,” describing it instead as “a system of ideas, beliefs, practices, structures, and policies that give some people greater opportunity to be fully human and live a happier and healthier life than others.”

[Read what Utah government and business leaders said then: Utah leaders sign on to compact acknowledging racism and committing to ending it, Dec. 15, 2020.]

Jan. 4, 2021: Signing the compact

The first document Cox signed as governor was the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It includes a commitment to listening to and addressing racial inequities through “policies that provide equal opportunity and access to education, employment, housing and health care.”

It also calls for “bold anti-racist actions and policies right now” to “create greater opportunity for people of color.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, joined by his wife, Abby, joins an event showing his support for the Utah nonprofit called Encircle, on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, which offers resources and peer counseling for LGBTQ youths and their families.

June 1, 2021: Supporting LGBTQ Utahns

Cox issued a proclamation declaring LGBTQ+ Pride Month. It included the term “LGBTQ+” six times.

Oct. 22, 2021: ‘No room for racism’

Cox issued a statement that said there is “no room for racism in Utah. Recent cases of ugly, disturbing racial harassment should be a wake-up call for every institution, every workplace, every family and every individual in our state.”

While Cox’s statement didn’t point to specific events, it came a day after the U.S. Department of Justice released a jarring report that found the Davis School District had intentionally ignored repeated racial harassment of Black and Asian students.

Nov. 18, 2021: After student death, Cox urges ‘a conversation with our children’

Cox called the death of 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor — who died by suicide after she was reportedly bullied because she was Black and autistic — an “awful, terrible tragedy,” and said he had recently met with her parents.

He also expressed “full confidence” in the Davis School District and its superintendent after the Justice Department report. “These issues are not just Utah issues,” Cox said of students experiencing racism. “They are issues in our country, and it is incumbent on every single one of us to have a conversation with our children.”

April 16, 2021: Defending minority scholarships

In response to a radio show questioner who called the Utah Jazz “racist” for a scholarship program it sponsors to benefit minority students, Cox said, “Well, I don’t think it’s racist. In fact, I think it’s in response to, unfortunately, some very difficult and racist injustices that have happened in our community for a long time.” And, he added, he planned to do “absolutely nothing” about it.

Jan. 3, 2022: Hiring, promoting people of color

After Cox’s first year in office, advocates for gender and racial equity said they were encouraged by his emphasis on inclusion, while conservative state school board member Natalie Cline had derisively labeled him “Utah’s woke governor.”

Cox’s spokesperson said he had “hired and promoted more women and people of color to senior staff and Cabinet positions than any previous administration.”

Jan. 17, 2022: Diversity curriculum for K-12

Cox and legislative leaders announced the formation of a working group focused on incorporating a diversity curriculum in K-12 schools. “There is strength in our diversity,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this group to find ways to ensure every child in every school feels valued and respected.”

April 19, 2022: Signing bills that support inclusion

Cox held a ceremonial signing for several bills and resolutions centered on diversity and inclusion, including making driver license exams available in multiple languages and an official recognition of Juneteenth as a state holiday. He said all the bills will help make Utah a place where there is an opportunity for all, Utah Public Radio reported, and everyone will feel welcome.

March 22, 2022: Vetoing a transgender athlete ban

Cox vetoed a bill passed by the Utah Legislature that would have banned transgender athletes from competing in high school sports. He announced he would call a special session of the Legislature to consider alternate proposals.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox announces the housing affordability portion of his budget in West Haven, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” Cox wrote in a letter to the Legislature. “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly.”

May 19, 2022: Achievements include diversity

On his 500th day since taking office as governor, Cox’s administration released a list of his “major achievements,” including:

• “Recruited diverse candidates for board, commission and judicial appointments. There are more women serving in Cabinet and senior staff positions now than ever before.”

• “Hired the first senior adviser for equity and opportunity” and the “first equity and inclusion accelerator.”

June 1, 2022: Second Pride month

Cox issued a second proclamation declaring LGBTQ+ Pride month. The wording mirrors that of the 2021 proclamation, including six uses of the term “LGBTQ+.”

Aug. 16, 2022: Time: Cox is not afraid to be ‘woke’

Time magazine published a profile of Cox headlined, “The Red-State Governor Who’s Not Afraid to Be ‘Woke.’” In it, the governor fired back at then-Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, who had called Cox a “low-I.Q. weekend MSNBC anchor” and “cut-rate Gavin Newsom imitator” for vetoing an anti-trans high school athlete bill.

“There is nobody more cowardly than Tucker Carlson,” Cox was quoted as saying. “This idea that you’re a coward for being kind, it’s so anti-Christian. It’s so anti-American.”

Jan. 28, 2023: Banning care for transgender youth

Cox signed a bill banning most gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. He also pledged to push for more resources for organizations that support transgender youths.

March 16, 2023: Limiting how K-12 educators can discuss racism

Cox said he was content with where the Legislature is on diversity, equity and inclusion. He signed a bill limiting how K-12 educators can discuss racism, sexism, ageism and religious discrimination in classrooms.

“There’s good diversity and inclusion and there’s not good diversity and inclusion,” he said. “You see a little bit of both of that, unfortunately, and it’s too bad that those terms get used differently. I think we talk past each other sometimes. I do think that there are some very extreme versions of that mindset that have led to unfortunately bad policy and terrible divides.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox at a news conference at West Valley City’s temporary homeless shelter on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.

June 1, 2023: Erasing ‘LGBTQ+’ from Pride month

Cox issued a third proclamation declaring Pride Month in Utah, but it did not include the term “LGBTQ+.” It also did not include the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Oct. 28, 2023: Supporting ‘political neutrality’ and free speech

Cox posted that he was “excited” to be speaking at an upcoming conference that would encourage students to see the value of dialogue and tolerance but oppose “cancel culture.”

“It’s more important than ever that our campuses get back to the ideals of political neutrality,” he said, “ending cancel culture and nurturing free-speech and idea exchange.”

Nov. 29, 2023: Telling Utah’s universities to remain neutral

Cox said he wants the state’s colleges and universities to stop commenting on current events, and that college presidents who are interested in giving their opinions should quit and instead run for political office.

“We will not on our campuses in Utah permit groups of students from canceling other people in their views at their events,” he said. “Protest if you want. But you have to make space for others.”

Dec. 1, 2023: Repeating the warning to higher education

Cox posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he has “been very concerned with the direction of higher education in our country. Today we made it clear that Utah’s universities and colleges will remain neutral on political issues while protecting freedom of speech on campuses.”

Dec. 7, 2023: ‘Disempower DEI bureaucrats’

Cox retweeted an X post calling for, among other things, “institutional neutrality” and for universities to “disempower DEI bureaucrats, responsible to no one, who have turned campuses into laughingstocks.”

“This is exactly what we are doing in Utah,” Cox wrote. “The survival of higher ed depends on it.”

Dec. 20, 2023: Attacking ‘these diversity statements’

Cox attacked diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Utah’s colleges and universities, repeating his assertion that such initiatives foster divisiveness instead of inclusivity.

He called “these diversity statements you have to sign to get hired … awful, bordering on evil,” and he promised to sign legislation banning such statements during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

All of the state’s schools later said they don’t have statements applicants must sign. In response, the governor’s office pointed to examples of higher education jobs that ask applicants to describe their efforts in “contributing to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.”