The Texas legislature has passed a bill to eliminate and perpetually ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices on state public college and university campuses. If passed, Senate Bill 17 will wipe the slate clean by prohibiting taxpayer-funded schools from mandatory DEI training. The Lone Star state is one step behind another state’s high-profile foray into such measures: Florida’s Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed SB 266, which prohibits diversity offices on the state’s public secular institutions.
Last month, during the hottest debate under the Texas sun in Austin, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick predicted a win as the bill advanced:
“The Texas Senate has now passed the strongest pushback on woke policies in higher education nationwide. For far too long, academia has been poisoned by woke policies and faculty seeking to indoctrinate our students. Professors did not believe we would push back on their advances, but they were wrong. Students should be taught how to think critically, not what to think.”
SB17 passed 83-60 along party lines with an amendment: “Legislation would not affect course instruction, faculty research, student organizations, guest speakers, data collection, or admissions.”
Patrick’s remarks only incensed the hard-left academia folks and the Democrats, and now the Texas Republican Party is upset as well. The party wants to kill the whole thing, as it no longer reflects the original intent. So the state’s GOP asked the author of the legislation, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, to give it another whirl.
“At this point, if the bill cannot be restored to its original goal in conference, it is preferable for the bill author, Senator Creighton, to kill his own bill rather than pass the substituted bill,” wrote Jill Glover, a member of the party’s governing board, on the organization’s website. “Not only does the House version of SB 17 now codify into Texas law sexual orientation and gender identity, it also does not implement the original intent.”
Creighton will either concur or disagree with House changes. He has the power to move the bill onto Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, but if he doesn’t, both chambers must appoint a committee to find a resolution.
Pros and Cons of DEI
Those opposed to DEI programs argue they favor race over merit; supporters say they breed inclusion and reduce discrimination. Complainants of the legislation are progressives and Democrats. They fear that, once DEI is banned, Texas kids will seek more Marxist pastures and, simultaneously, out-of-state students and faculty will find a less American state to attend and receive higher education.
“If I’m a professor who is considering going to university, why would I consider coming to Texas when I could not get the research funding I need in order to do the work that I want to do,” Democrat Rep. Mary E. González asked.
During discussions, most opponents invoked the NCAA requirements for participation in the sports program. If the NCAA finds fault and penalizes Texas colleges and universities, attracting the best Friday night light talent goes right out the window. No matter what the party affiliation, every Texan would be concerned about the state’s college football program.
But some also worry about DEI people losing their jobs. Rep. Nicole Collier was one such lawmaker. Her focus on getting an answer from her Republican colleagues was noted, and most assumed staff members would be reassigned and spread throughout administrative offices and departments for each public institution. Instead, the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Rep John Kuempel, said universities must make “reasonable efforts” to find similar jobs and salaries for those employees.
Finally, Rep. Nicole Collier warns: “Shuttering all state DEI offices — which are voluntary — would cost the state $1 billion in lost grant funding.”
What Will Abbott Do?
If SB17 makes it to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, what will he be compelled to do? Whip out the ceremonial pen or veto the entire package for this year’s legislative session? If the governor’s past actions are any indication, Texas may follow North Dakota and Florida in banning DEI. Earlier this year, Abbott sent a letter to all state agencies and universities making clear his thoughts: “The innocuous-sounding notion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.” If past is prologue, then the governor has already indicated his ultimate decision.
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