/Anti-DEI bill spells trouble for UM minority orgs 
Two drag performers, JoAnn Crawford and Pluto Stardust, at a Spectrum Event hosted earlier this semester. Photo by Ashley Williams.

Anti-DEI bill spells trouble for UM minority orgs 

By Wesley Walter Managing editor 

On March 20, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill containing sweeping restrictions on diversity, equity and inclusion offices, programs and policies in state funded institutions.  

The law, formerly SB129, has received backlash from students and advocacy groups across the state who have criticized its potential to restrict minority and LGBT students’ voices as well as their right to organize through university programs.  

SB129, set to go into effect Oct. 1, prohibits state-funded institutions, such as universities, “from maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and from sponsoring diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.” 

SB129 defines DEI programs as, “Any program, class, training, seminar, or other event where attendance is based on an individual’s race, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation.” 

The law also prohibits, “the promotion, endorsement, and affirmation of certain divisive concepts in certain public settings.” 

Among the eight “divisive concepts” listed by the bill is the concept, “That, by virtue of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, the individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.” 

SB129 will also require that public institutions of higher education, “designate restrooms on the basis of biological sex; and to authorize certain penalties for violation.” 

At The University of Montevallo, SB129 has cast uncertainty on the future of several campus organizations meant to serve minority students. 

One such organization is Montevallo’s MADE program.  

According to UM’s website, MADE aims to assist minority students overcome challenges they face in college, as well as provide a safe and supportive environment for minority students. 

In light of the new legislation, MADE Coordinator and Student Advisor Ben Ndalima said, “We will pivot where needed, but we will definitely do our best to stay active.” 

Ndalima explained that MADE has already undergone a name shift in hopes of being more inclusive and remaining active in the face of anti-DEI legislation.  

“It used to be M.A.D.E. so, which stood for Minorities Achieving Dreams of Excellence. The meaning behind that is—it’s super genuine, you know, we are—this is a PWI. And we want to support all students, but me personally, speaking, from my experience, I was—I am a minority, and I was a student here. Not just a student, but I was an international student. So, my resources were very limited. At one point, I was working three jobs,” Ndalima said.  

Ndalima explained that the organization’s goal of providing opportunities to minority students comes from a place of need for said opportunities, and not a desire to exclude non-minority students from assistance. 

“When we talk about minorities, we talk about first gen students, we talk about the minority by race, we talk about underserved communities, you know. People that actually, you know, that really want to be in school and don’t have the resources to,” Ndalima said. 

Ndalima emphasized that MADE aims to help students regardless of their race, saying, “If the person needs the help, we’re here.” 

Ndalima, who has spent much of his life between Tanzania and the United States, said that MADE has been vital to his success at UM.  

“It’s definitely challenging coming into—imagine coming into another culture, another continent, another country. And, you know—you know, English not being your primary language, cause Swahili is my primary language. So, you’re having to adjust to how Americans speak English,” Ndalima said. 

“I came back for my masters in 2021,” said Ndalima, “And, I mean, this program has been nothing but supportive for me, gave me the resources I needed, tuition—helped me become a leader. Now I’m working full time with MADE so it just paved the way for me to be successful during college and after college.” 

“I’m also the advisor for the International Student Organization ISO, so I get to work closely with them and just watched them grow, and because I can relate. I can relate to that. You know, my, my youngest sister, she’s here too. She was—she’s American born, but she grew up pretty much all her life in Tanzania,” Ndalima said. “So, it’s just kind of, you know, it’s amazing to watch her flourish and grow and just make friends and get out of her comfort zone. It’s very, it’s very, very hard and tricky, because it’s like—man I don’t know, you know—you’re trying to get comfortable and try to understand what’s happening and it’s like, a lot coming in, and then boom! Policies that want to take away programs such as MADE, and it’s just like we have to—we have to find ways to keep thriving and keep growing.” 

“It’s obvious that, you know, resources will be limited,” Ndalima said regarding the bill’s effects on minority students. “If you don’t have funding to run the program, if you don’t have funding to provide scholarships, if you don’t have funding to do fun events and activities, if you don’t have funding to do our monthly MADE meetings that we do to have career development within the students—personal development and growth and setting them up for success—then it’s hard for the students to thrive.” 

Regardless of dangers to the program, Ndalima said he wants to continue working with MADE and is optimistic for its future. 

“We’re a fairly new program. And I believe that there’s a bright future for MADE. And I want to, I want to be here till the end. You know, I want to be here until I can no longer be here,” said Ndalima, continuing, “We’re gonna do everything we can to pivot to make—to make sure that we are a hub for these minority students for students in general, and just a safe haven.” 

SB129 has also prompted concern about the future of Spectrum, UM’s gender and sexuality alliance. 

Spectrum aims to promote tolerance and understanding for LGBT people at UM, and provide a safe space for students.  

Spectrum president Jacob Anderson said that, while SB129 will restrict LGBT programs and students across the state, he remains optimistic about Spectrum’s continuation at UM.  

Anderson said, “So, to my knowledge, we are going to be continuing next year. I have been reassured by SGA, that it won’t—that the bill will not affect us. Especially, since our club is inclusive already. That’s it, that’s how it started. It was a gay-straight alliance, I mean, you need to have straight people to have a gay-straight alliance, we’re not excluding anyone.” 

When asked to explain what he saw as the reasoning for the bill, Anderson said, “I think it’s—it’s a way that these conservative politicians, mainly straight, white, cis men, are trying to basically get rid of safe spaces for people of color and queer people and people with disabilities.” 

While Anderson does not expect the law to impact Spectrum, he did express concerns about how the legislation might affect other LGBT-centric groups in Alabama.  

“So, what’s going to happen in a state that already has very few queer spaces, we’re basically limiting those spaces even more,” Anderson remarked, saying, “There’s also word of this might affect scholarships, this is basically going to affect the amount of people of color and queer people going into—going to college.” 

Despite Anderson saying that he has often felt unwelcome in Alabama as a queer person, he said he does want to continue working to promote queer rights within the state.  

“I have had thoughts of like, I cannot thrive here as a queer person in Alabama. But I do not want to leave. I would rather try my best to change the—the area that I’m from the state that I’m—that I live in than just abandon it because that is a disservice to all the queer youth that comes after me,” Anderson said. 

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Wesley Walter is managing editor for The Alabamian. He is a junior English major and mass communications minor. Wesley boasts a 750 credit score, boyish good looks and soulful eyes that contain a deep indescribable sadness. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, visiting gas stations and thinking about getting into surfing.