Texas Senate advances bill against DEI initiatives that Conroe lawmaker claim are 'exclusive'

Shannon Ryan Image
Saturday, April 22, 2023
DEI offices could soon close as SB-17 bill passes in Texas Senate
If the bill becomes law, DEI offices on Texas college campuses will shut down and training and hiring practices based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation would be banned.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A bill that would dramatically curb public university initiatives was just passed out of the Texas Senate this week.

Senate Bill 17, sponsored by State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, passed along party lines in a 19-12 vote.

If the bill becomes law, diversity, equity, and inclusion offices will be shut down.

SEE HERE: UH reminds community of existing hiring policies amid DEI under fire for Texas college campuses

"DEI programs have been shown to be exclusive," Creighton said.

So what is at stake?

Effectively, training and hiring practices based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation would be banned, and admission, along with the data collection process dealing with race, ethnicity, and sex, would be limited.

"There's a belief in Republican circles that DEI offices and initiatives are used to promote what they would call a 'woke agenda,' in some ways to indoctrinate students, and this is a way to push back against that," Dr. Mark Jones of Rice University, said.

Rice will not be impacted as it is a private university.

Under the bill, a university could only access funding appropriated for the fiscal year once its governing board submits a report certifying compliance to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

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The state would periodically conduct a compliance audit to determine "whether the institution has spent state money in violation." A university board designee would also be required to testify on compliance before legislative committees.

"There is no logic in the belief that you can increase diversity by removing policies and offices that work to promote diversity," Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, said.

Staff that fails to comply would be risking termination, and universities that do the same could lose funding for one year.

"It's probably more of a bluff than an actual concrete threat," Jones said.

Jones said he does not believe the legislation will pass out of the House.

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Instead, he views it as a message from Lt Gov. Dan Patrick to state universities: "Either get your own house in order, curtail your DEI and CRT activities, or the state next session will step in and do so."

Jones told ABC13 he believes Creighton is using another bill, SB 18, which he filed to send that same message. The bill would eliminate tenure for university professors, which also passed at the same time as SB-17.

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