In a significant move, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has approved a bill that prohibits the establishment and maintenance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices in public colleges and universities across the state, effective from 2024, Your Content has learned.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 17, received approval from both chambers of the Texas Legislature back in May.
Its provisions not only ban DEI offices but also prohibit higher education institutions from mandating DEI statements or participation in DEI training.
According to the legislation, a DEI office is defined as an entity that applies differential treatment to individuals based on race, sex, color, or ethnicity through policies, procedures, training, programs, or activities.
Under this law, students or employees will have the right to take legal action against universities if they are compelled to engage in DEI training, seeking “injunctive or declaratory relief.”
Republican lawmakers have been vocal throughout the legislative session, criticizing DEI offices and initiatives in higher education for being divisive and stifling freedom of speech among faculty and students.
However, students and faculty members in Texas have expressed their opposition to the ban, arguing that DEI offices and initiatives play a vital role in fostering inclusion and supporting people of color on campuses.
State Senator Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe, hailed the ban as a triumph for free speech, Texas universities, and the state’s commitment to genuine diversity and merit in higher education.
He emphasized the potential cost savings for taxpayers and the restoration of values like free inquiry, meritocracy, equal opportunity, and innovation.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, prioritized the bill during this session.
It’s important to note that the legislation does not apply to academic course instruction, research, activities by student organizations, student recruitment, or admissions.
Reacting to the news, Texas Students for DEI, a coalition of college students, strongly condemned the decision to remove DEI offices and programs from college campuses.
They emphasized that DEI’s principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be eradicated and vowed to continue their efforts to create a diverse and equitable environment.
Texas becomes the second state in the United States to ban certain DEI initiatives in higher education, following Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed a similar bill last month.
The NAACP responded by issuing a travel advisory for Florida.
Before the bill’s passage in the Texas House, Representative Ron Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, urged his fellow members not to be on the “wrong side of history.”
He emphasized the progress made by diverse communities in Texas and the positive impact of DEI programs in propelling the state forward.
Under the new law, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will conduct a study to assess the impact of the legislation on college student recruitment and retention.
Additionally, the state auditor will be required to conduct audits of public colleges and universities every four years to ensure compliance with the ban on the use of state funds for “unconstitutional” DEI programs and practices.
The Texas Legislature had already approved a state budget containing language that restricts the use of state money for such DEI programs, and the budget now awaits Governor Abbott’s signature, according USA Today.