Monday, March 13, 2023

Texas Senate bill would ban DEI offices, statements at public colleges, universities

Students, Friends, and Colleagues:

Check out these priorities of our Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Never mind what the evidence says about the positive impacts of DEI, Senate Bills 16 and 17 amount to an all-out attack on Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Texas. 

As per my earlier post this morning, it's not like we are without power. However, we all need all to pay attention and be engaged.

-Angela Valenzuela 

Texas Senate bill would ban DEI offices, statements at public colleges, universities

The proposed bill allows for repeat violators to be fired. Faculty violators could have their tenure revoked.

Megan Menchaca
Austin American-Statesman | March 11, 2023

A bill filed Friday in the Texas Senate would prohibit public higher education institutions across the state from maintaining diversity, equity and inclusion offices or requiring DEI statements in admissions or hiring.

If Senate Bill 17 passed, a state board would create a list of employees that violate certain portions of the bill. That list would shared with every public university and college in Texas. Also, universities cannot hire first-time violators until the end of the academic year when the violation occurred. Repeat violators would be fired and could not be considered for rehire for five years after the dismissal.

The bill is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top legislative priorities. State Sen. Brandon Creighton, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, filed the bill, which would enact the restrictions in DEI in higher education in Texas if passed. Eight additional senators have signed on to the bill as authors as of Saturday morning.

The current draft of the bill prohibits public colleges and universities in Texas from having a DEI office or hiring employees or outside contractors to “perform the duties” of a DEI office. The expansive bill blocks any public office that promotes efforts “designed or implemented in reference to race, color, or ethnicity.” It also bans training or activities “designed or implemented in reference to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation” — except those required under state or federal law.

More:University of Texas System to halt new diversity, equity and inclusion policies on campuses

Creighton, R-Conroe, said “so-called” DEI offices are the “leading threat” to diversity and inclusivity on university campuses. He said people should be welcomed and promoted at universities based on their qualifications.

“The elevation of DEI offices on campuses have only furthered divides and created a chilling effect on open dialogue,” Creighton wrote in a statement. “This legislation will ensure Texas college campuses are environments that are open to differing ideas, foster meaningful, reasoned dialogue, and encourage intellectual discourse.”

The bill would prohibit universities from asking current students and employees, contractors, job applicants and students applying for admission for DEI statements or to “endorse an ideology that promotes the differential treatment of an individual or group of individuals based on race, color, or ethnicity.”

Creighton’s bill would keep universities from asking people to provide statements on their “views on or experience” with race, ethnicity or national origin and their contributions to efforts involving DEI, marginalized groups, anti-racism, social justice or intersectionality.

More:How diverse are students, employees at Austin-area colleges and universities?

It would ban universities from requiring students, employees or job applicants to participate in training on DEI, bias, oppression or gender identity unless the training is required by state or federal law.

Universities would face a fine either of $1 million or 1% of the school’s operating expenses — whichever is less — for violations if the bill becomes law. Employees would be placed on unpaid leave for their first violation and fired for their second violation. Faculty could have their tenure revoked. 

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board — overseer of public universities in the state — would maintain a list of employees who violate the section regarding the prohibition on DEI offices and DEI statements. That list would be shared with other public universities and universities would be limited from hiring people on the list.

The proposed bill allows members of a Board of Regents, appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, to approve or deny hires for several positions, including provost, associate or assistant provost, dean or associate or assistant dean, at each institution they oversee.The Regents would have the authority to approve or deny courses in the core curriculum and postings for tenured faculty positions at the institution they oversee.

On Friday, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, also filed Senate Bill 16, another priority of the Lt. Gov, to prohibit faculty from compelling or attempting to compel students to “adopt a belief that any race, sex, or ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief is inherently superior to any other race, sex, ethnicity, or belief.”

Lawmakers have until May 29, when the legislative session ends, to pass any bills and send them to Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law.

More:University of Texas 'operational plan' to execute, track 2022 DEI goals remains unreleased

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