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Getting to Know U 

This section provides an overview of historical developments of inclusion and diversity that have shaped the University of Utah. They consist of meaningful policies, practices, and individuals who have collectively become vehicles for effecting profound changes to our campus community. As an institution—which continues to evolve over time and space—our historical narrative is still unfolding and we invite you to critically reflect on the importance of our history in relation to our responsibilities, intentions, and actions in empowering inclusive excellence.


Legend & Reference for timeline
Acts, Policies, & Laws   Individuals Specific to the University of Utah  Federal Initiatives



   On February 2, 1848, the United States of American and the Republic of Mexico signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War. Mexico ceded land that would later comprise: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Residents of these regions were afforded citizens and guaranteed "the right to their property, language, and culture." (Article X) [26]

University of Utah was founded on November 11, 1850 (initially named University of Deseret).

In 1860, Course Catalogues became available to students.

The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions, which provided resources to fund public colleges in each state including advanced agricultural, mechanical, and military training. This Act also increased access to higher education. [1]


 The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 declared “aliens ineligible for citizenship” and prohibited nearly all Chinese immigration to the US. This discriminatory Act contributed to a long history of racially motivated immigration restrictions, which impacted higher education. [2]


  A second Morrill Act of 1890 allocated funds for public institutions of higher education that extended and supported the establishment of land grant universities, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This legislation increased access for African American students who did not benefit from the first passage of Morrill Act 1862. [1]

The first student newspaper began at the University of Utah in 1890. They became significant in capturing critical initiatives on campus (it has since evolved into the Daily Utah Chronicle).

In 1892, our institution was officially re-named the University of Utah. [3]

In 1894, Congress deeded 60 acres of Fort Douglas land on the city’s east bench for the University of Utah campus. These lands are largely used for education including student-housing alternatives. [4]

On January 4, 1896, Utah officially became the 45th state in the US.


In February 1915, religious tensions emerged on campus between faculty and central administrators under the leadership of President Joseph Kingsbury which resulted in protests and resignations. This controversy drew national attention. [5]

In April 1915, controversies concerning academic freedom drew national attention when the newly founded American Association of University Professors (AAUP) launched its first-ever investigation of academic freedom violations at the University of Utah. [5]

 On August 26, 1920, women were granted the right to vote.

The Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as the Johnson-Reed Act or Asian Exclusion Act) barred all but a trickle of Asian immigration for permanent residence; this law remained in place until 1965 and maintained implications for racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. [6]


In 1938, Carlson Hall became the first residential housing site for women at the University of Utah (it later became the home of Ethnic Studies and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps or ROTC); the building was torn in 2012 and it is currently the new site of the College of Law.

 In 1944, the GI Bill (otherwise known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944) was introduced to help former military personnel reintegrate into the economy and society after the war. One of its primary focus, since WWII, has been access to higher education. [7]

On July 13, 1946, the US President’s Commission on Higher Education were charged with the task of examining the functions of higher education in our democracy and the means by which they can best be performed. [8]

In 1946, the University of Utah established the International Students & Scholars Services (formerly known as the Foreign Students Office). They have developed and maintain programs like iMentors and International Student Ambassadors to support international students. [9]

On January 31, 1947, the Utah Daily Chronicle at the U authored an article on the intersections between racism and religion on campus, entitled “Happy for All?” Interestingly, at the end of the article, it reads, “This is the second of two articles written by a student who is a member of a minority group and prefers to remain anonymous.” (This note was important in conveying one perspective of the campus climate, which also signified the importance of safety at this time).

  In 1947, Harry S. Truman established the President’s Commission on Higher Education with charges to “defin[e] the responsibilities of colleges and universities in American democracy and in international affairs—more specifically with re-examining the objectives, methods, and facilities of higher education in the US in the light of the social role it plays; this happened before WWII." The report expressed a sense of urgency to expand educational opportunities, affordability, and increase social understandings for the future of the nation. [8]

According to a historical narrative by a civil rights leader, Alberta Henry, in 1949, there were limited representations of ethnic students at the University of Utah, which initiated more intentional and targeted recruitment across the country to diversify the student population (from large cities, like Chicago).


In 1954, the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education founded that racial segregation was unconstitutional; this led to the integration and desegregation of many public schools.

  In 1961, US President John F. Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as the Chair. This commission produced a report in 1963 documenting substantial discrimination against women in the workplace. The commission provided explicit recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care. [10]

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 focused on ensuring access to higher education for historically underrepresented minorities and prohibited discrimination based on race, color and national origin. [11]

 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was important in barring discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. It also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties. [10]

 On August 6, 1965, the landmark Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson prohibiting racial discrimination in voting (and is considered to be one of, if not, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the US). 

 As a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was passed to provide federal funds to help low-income students, which resulted in educational programs such as Title 1 and Head Start.

 Former US President Lyndon Johnson stated, “we need to do more…to extend the opportunity for higher education more broadly among lower and middle income families.” During his tenure, the Higher Education Act of 1965 was passed and it established need-based financial aid for the first time, along with the creation of TRIO (originally referring to three programs including Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Service) as an early intervention program for underrepresented minorities and low-income students. [12]

Executive Order 11375 of 1967 expands President Lyndon Johnson’s affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to prohibit discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex or national origin. [10]

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects those who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. 

In 1968, the University of Utah hosted African American students from Chicago in hopes that they might enroll at our institution. [13]

In 1969, the University of Utah established TRIO on our very own campus. 

The University of Utah started a Black Student Union in 1969. They remain one of the many student groups under the Office for Equity and Diversity. [14]

In 1969, historical narratives discussed a meeting that took place between President Fletcher and community members to discuss the lacking presence of Chicano students, faculty, and staff at the University of Utah; this resulted in the President tasking its cabinet members to work on the issue of inclusion. The Vice President of Academic Affairs at the time, Jerry Anderson (who was also a professor in the College of Law), allocated funding to assist with recruitment efforts. In the same year, 2 active individuals in the community—Leonard Salazar & Fred LeBlanc—assisted the Dean of Students at the time (Frank McKean) and they organized the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs[15]

As of April 1, 1969, a “Summary of Race Faculty and Staff Members” on the U's payroll consisted of 9 male Native Americans and 1 female Native American. [16]

July 7, 1969 marks the first archived document on Utah's Affirmative Action policies that noted the newly approved statement of Equal Opportunity at the University of Utah. [13]

Between 1969-1970, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) was established with funds designated by the Utah legislature as Utah Educactional Funds (UEF) for financial aid and services to disadvantaged populations. By the early 1970’s CESA provided services to a range of ethnic groups including Latina/o, African American, and Native American students. [17]


In 1971, Phillita T. Carney became the first African American homecoming queen at the U. [18]

Also, in 1971, Alberta Henry became the first African American awarded an honorary degree from the University of Utah.

In 1972, the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (later named Pell Grants) fulfilled a recommendation of the Truman Commission report of 1947 to open and expand access to higher education to people from all socioeconomic classes. The US President at the time, Richard Nixon, conveyed, “no qualified student who wants to go to college should be barred by lack of money." [11]

The landmark legislation, Title IX of 1972, mandated access for women in athletics and required equivalent support for not only male athletes, but female athletes. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination and harassment based on sex or sex stereotypes in schools. It states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools have increased dramatically. [11]

In 1972, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) (originally called The Minority Center) was located under the Division of Student Affairs. [19]

       A year later, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 was passed and this policy prohibitted discrimination against those with disabilities.

In 1973, each department at the University of Utah created Affirmative Action plans. [15]

A distinguished African American scholar, Dr. Ronald Coleman, began his tenure as faculty. Ethnic Studies also developed at this time. [13]

In 1973, the Center for Disability and Access opened its doors on campus (formerly called Student Services for the Handicapped and previously known as the Center for Disability Services up until Summer 2016).

Orlando Rivera received his PhD in 1974 and eventually became the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for 10 years until January 1, 1984 under the leadership of former Utah President, David Gardner. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) and diversity initiatives. [15]

The Women’s Resource Center at the University of Utah is established in 1974 (personal communication, Debra Daniels, 2015). They currently have programs, like Go Girlz, U START, and the Women's Enrollment Initiative to focus on improving access for women.

Developed by John Florez in 1974, the University of Utah was the first school west of the Mississippi River to have a successful Affirmative Action plan that was signed and approved in 1975. [13]

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 is passed and it prohibits age discrimination in programs or activities in schools and college campuses that receive federal assistance.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, in 1975, later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) support states and localities in protecting the rights of meeting individual needs of families and children with disabilities.

 In 1978, University of California v. Bakke upheld affirmative action in which the court affirmed universities the right to consider race as one of a number of factors for diversity that contributes to a “robust exchange of ideas” in college admissions.

  In the same year, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 banned employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under this act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is (or may become) pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work. [10]

In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. [10]

In 1983, Dr. Irv Altman was named Vice President for Academic Affairs. He advocated for a more holistic approach to diversify the campus and he appointed an Associate Academic VP for Diversity. Altman also restructured the university's organization by moving CESA, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies (formerly Women’s Studies) and the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) under the office of the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs (the WRC was moved back to Student Affairs in 1988). [17]

In 1984, CESA is officially re-structured under Academic Affairs. [19]

On May 28, 1985, Orlando Rivera’s oral history noted, “If you start looking at…education, we still have high dropout rates underachievement, and today nobody cares. We’ve taken a beating at the University of Utah. Opportunities are not being afforded to our young people and they are not being supported once they get here." [15]

In an account, written by Orland Rivera wrote in June 11, 1985, he marked his arrival to Utah in 1959. He found that many people came during WWII to work in the Toole Army Depot or the Ogden Defense Depot including the mines and railroad. He observed many women who cleaned homes for more affluent families. He also witnessed how Hispanics were assumed “foreigners” even though their grandparents lived in the "US" since they were invaded by the US; Hispanics became “strangers” in their own land having to justify their existence. [15]

The Lowell Bennion Community Service Center was dedicated in 1987 by Chase Peterson, former President of the University of Utah and it continues to maintain a focus on community service.

Dr. Ronald Coleman accepted a six-month interim appointment in the position [of Associate Vice President of Diversity] during the 1988-89 year. He continued in the position during a national search in 1990 that was not successful. He was then appointed to the permanent position following a second national search in 1991. Through the 1990s CESA continued to report to the Office for Equity and Diversity under Coleman’s leadership. [17]


Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 required that college campuses move to provide access and accommodations for persons with disabilities. Whether or not they receive federal financial assistance, the Act prohibitted discrimination based on disabilities by public entities, such as public elementary and secondary school systems, postsecondary schools, and vocational education programs. [11]

In August, 1990, the Student Issues Subcommittee (now the Student Behavior Committee) of the OEO Commission (at the University of Utah) conducted a survey on issues and concerns voiced by students of color. Survey results revealed at least 50% or more of students witnessed discrimination. There was also a concern about a “shortage of courses on ethnic minorities.”  This resulted in the creation of the Diversity Board in the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) and efforts by students, like Tamara Taylor and ASUU leadership, to advocate for a diversity requirement. [13]

In 1990-91 services for Asian American students were added to the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) and shortly afterwards a Pacific Islander advisor was hired. [17]

On June 23, 1992 The Supreme Court ruled (5-4) in favor of the University of Michigan to consider race in their admissions process to enhance the educational benefits from students learning in a diversity student body. This established a precendence in higher education admissions standards. [13]

In 1993, a new General Education [BROKEN LINK]Diversity Requirement was created for all undergraduate students at the University of Utah. [13]

In 1995, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) was organized at the University of Utah under the leadership of President Art Smith. [20]

In 1995, two years after creating the diversity requirement, the University of Utah Faculty Affirmative Action Committee shared its  philosophy on the diversity requirement, adding “students are required to take a course that enhances their understanding of people from life backgrounds different from their own." [13]

The University of Utah begins to implement Diversity (DV) designated courses for the first time in 1995.

 In 1998, Madeleine Albright is confirmed as the first woman U.S. secretary of state. [10]

In 1998-1999, when Assistant VP for Equity and Diversity, Dr. Ron Coleman, announced his return to the Department of History (effective July 1, 1999), an internal search for a replacement resulted in the appointment of Dr. Karen Dace (who was an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication) as the new Assistant VP for Equity and Diversity in August of 1999. [17]

In April, 2002, the LGBT Resource Center was formally dedicated.

In 2002, the Utah legislature passed House Bill 144, which allows qualifying students (including those who are undocumented and have graduate from a local secondary school in the state of Utah) to pay in-state tuition at any higher education institution.

In July, 2009, the Division of Student Affairs began the Student Affairs Diversity Council (SADC) to address diversity issues related to their work with students. They developed a series of educational modules, monthly speaking engagements, and a Pursuit of Inclusion Award.


  The U.S. Census disaggregated Asian American data from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations to better reflect the distinct experiences of these two groups. [21]

In Fall, 2010, the University of Utah and University of Colorado officially became a part of the PAC-12 conference (previously called the PAC-10 until these two institutions were added). [22]

In Spring semester, 2011, during student government elections, the VOICE Party experienced a series of bias incidents against them (from their peers on campus) throughout the elections process.

In May, 2011, under the Division of Student Affairs, the Veterans Support Center opened its doors and Roger Perkins was named the inaugural Director.

In October 2012, a fairly large religious organization announced changes in their missionary age, which impacted local enrollment across the state. While there is no direct relationship between the the religion and the University of Utah, it is important to note that institutions are affected by local decisions within the state.

In July, 2013, the Office for Inclusive Excellence was created (originally named Office of Diversity & Inclusion) and Belinda Otukolo Saltiban was its inaugural director. The office itself was an initiative produced by former ASUU President, Geneva Thompson (a former member of the VOICE Party).

Fall 2013 was the first academic year that holistic admissions was enacted for (first year entering and domestic) undergraduate students. 

In 2013, Alberta Comer became the first Native American Dean at the J.Willard Marriott Library

In 2013, Ruth Watkins begins as the VP for Academic Affairs. [23]

In December, 2013, the Office for Equity and Diversity was restructured. [24]

A week after the restructuring on main campus (in December, 2013), a restructuring on upper campus also took place with the position of VP for Health Equity & Inclusion.

On April 15, 2014, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of Utah and the Ute Indian Tribe was renewed.

In April 2014, under the leadership of ASUU President, Sam Ortiz, a bill passed (with overwhelming numbers of student votes) to officially change the lyrics of the University of Utah Fight Song from “Utah Man” to “Utah Fan.” The bill also changed additional lines in the fight song to challenge sexist and racist insinuations and move towards a more inclusive tradition (not to eliminate tradition). [25]

On September 11, 2014, in conjunction with the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Ute tribe, the University of Utah established new scholarship fund for native students who belong to the Ute tribe.

As a part of its expansion into global learning, the University of Utah Asia Campus opened its doors in South Korea during Spring, 2015.

In Spring, 2015, Ambra Jackson is announced as the ASUU President for the 2015-2016 academic year.

In Spring 2015, a team of administrators influenced a state bill during the legislative session to propose that all high school graduates from Utah be considered eligible to receive privately funded scholarships in higher education. This was a huge victory towards increasing access for students to receive funding, regardless of citizenship status.

The University of Utah refined its goals in 2015 to: (1) Promote student success to transform lives; (2) Develop and transfer new knowledge; (3) Engage communities to improve health and quality of Life; and (4) Ensure long-term viability of the University

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court rules (5-4) rules in favor of same-sex marriage; thus, making it legal for anyone to marry in all 50 states. This law had many implications for all community members at the U.

At the beginning of Fall semester (in August 2015), the University of Utah officially launched the Women’s Enrollment Initiative (WEI) to increase the enrollment and retention of women at the University of Utah.

On August 21, 2015, a letter from Ruth Watkins & Vivian Lee to ALL University Employees about preferred names and pronouns. The letter read:

“In order to continue our efforts to create an open and inclusive university community, we ask all faculty and staff to call students by their preferred name, as found in the University’s Campus Information System (CIS). In addition, if a student has requested to be referred to by a particular preferred gender pronoun, we ask that you honor that request.

Should you need more information or resources on preferred names and gender pronouns or on LGBTQIA issues generally, please see

We thank you for your continued efforts to make our campus a welcoming place for all and appreciate all that you do to make this a great institution.”

On November 20, 2015--in solidarity with movements across higher education institutions--central administrators led a historic rally and townhall discussion on racial campus climate and held a townhall discussion at the Student Union.

On April 20, 2016, there were 13 responses to the solidarity march, released by the University administration.

On October 26, 2017, a new Anti-Racism Task Force convened. Its task is to "work on developing and deploying actions on our campus."

On January 19, 2018, the Utah State Board of Regents announced Dr. Ruth Watkins as its president. Watkins is the first woman to lead the campus. 


1. Renn, K. & Reason, R. (2013). College students in the United States: Characteristics, experiences, and outcomes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 The drama of diversity and democracy: Higher education and American commitments. (2011). American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2nd edition.

2. Renn, K. & Reason, R. (2013). College students in the United States: Characteristics, experiences, and outcomes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (p. 90); see also Thelin, J. (Fall, 2007). Expectations and reality in American higher education. Thought & Action, 59. p. 61



5. Newall, L.J. (2015, Fall). Rites of Passage. Continuum Magazine, Fall 2015, pp. 21-22.

6. The drama of diversity and democracy: Higher education and American commitments. (2011). American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), 2nd edition.

7. Swail, W., Redd, K., & Perna, L. (2003). Retaining minority students in higher education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 30 (2). (p. 9)

8. Zook, G. F. (1947). Higher education for American democracy. Report of the Commission on Higher Education. Six volumes. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

9. Chalimar Swain, personal communication, 2016

10. Botkin, S., Jones, J., & Kachwaha, T. (2007). Sexism Curriculum Design. In, Teaching for Diversity and social change (Eds.) Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, & Pat Griffin. (Appendix 8C)

11. Smith, D. (2009). Diversity's promise for higher education: Making it work. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. (See also Office for Civil Rights via email June 20, 2014)

12. Smith, D. (2009). Diversity's promise for higher education: Making it work. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. ; See also Swail, W., Redd, K., & Perna, L. (2003). Retaining minority students in higher education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 30 (2).;

13. Thompson, G. p. 16, 23, 36 

14. Maag, M. (1971). Discrimination against the negro in Utah and Institutional efforts to eliminate it. Dissertation.

15. Rivera, p. 2-3 & 20-38, part II of oral history

16. Nereida Oliva's powerpoint

17. Daniels, D., Okhuysen, G., Brayboy, B., Delgado Bernal, D., Hwang, W., Richards, K., White, P., Falepapalangi, O., Arvizo, J. (March 22, 2006).  Review of the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA).

18. Nereida Oliva, personal communication, 2015; Ebony Magazine, September 1982

19. Villa, C. (2004). Sources of Legitimacy Associated with the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah.”  Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. Ph. D. Dissertation.  (see p. 6; p. 35)

20. Personal communication, MaryAnne Berzins, 2015.

21. Utah excited by PAC-10 Acceptance.



24. Whitehurst, L. (December 11, 2013). University of Utah students protest over diversity concerns. Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2014 from,

25. (April 23, 2014). Students vote to change lyrics of fight song Utah Man. University Herald. Retrieved 2014 from,

 26. Gonzales, M. G. (2009). Mexicanos: A history of Mexicans in the United States. Indiana University Press.

Last Updated: 4/25/22