Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Civil Rights Organizations Condemn Passage of Texas Bill to Halt DEI Offices and Policies in Public Universities and Colleges˚

We should all be condemning this. I know that many of us did what we could. Ours is a zealous opposition that seeks to tear down all the bridges wrought by civil rights over many decades. I have felt throughout this legislative session that those in power don't really understand what they are doing. In fact, many legislators had never even heard of it prior to this session such that they were voting on something about which they knew little. 

This is not unlike "CRT" last legislative session. An aggressive radical right twists and deforms this concepts into something that should be feared in order to carry forward their retrogressive agenda. This strategy is straight out of the extreme right, Republican playbook, no less.

To bring down DEI when it is interwoven into the very fabric of our institutions, is massive and draconian. It's also racist and white supremacist.

I've said this before. I'll say it again. For us in higher education, it matters enormously to get involved in K-12 policy battles such as the struggle over CRT last legislative session. Why? Because they have implications for higher education. We saw this coming last session. I know I and those around me did. Still, we were insufficiently prepared as an advocacy community to weather this attack.

Geez, for us in higher education, what does this even look like? We enter a dark, new era in Texas higher education that is ever more contentious and worrisome.

Academic freedom and democracy itself are very much at risk. I still say that we should not be discouraged. I've lived by this dictum that has served me well: "When things get political, one must get more political." Like my dear friend and colleague, Deborah Meier, herself once said. If democracy is in trouble, the solution is always more democracy.

-Angela Valenzuela

Civil Rights Organizations Condemn Passage of Texas Bill to Halt DEI Offices and Policies in Public Universities and Colleges

Austin, Texas – The Texas House of Representatives voted today to pass Senate Bill 17 (S.B. 17), a bill that prohibits diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices and policies at public colleges and universities in the state. The measure forbids faculty, students, and staff from receiving critical training and services that help to prevent potentially discriminatory action that could disadvantage students who come from historically marginalized backgrounds.  

S.B. 17 expands on Senate Bill 3, the K-12 Texas anti-truth law passed in 2021, by targeting public colleges and universities and is the latest legislation to target inclusive public education in Texas.  

A group of civil rights and education advocacy organizations expressed grave concerns about the passage of S.B. 17, and issued the following statement:  

“We condemn the Texas House of Representative’s passage of S.B. 17. The implementation of this misguided measure would be devastating for generations of Texans from all backgrounds. If enacted, S.B. 17 will undermine the ability of educators and administrators to create a diverse and welcoming campus and threaten the quality of higher education in Texas as a whole. This legislation threatens to eliminate critical tools still needed to advance educational equity and will negatively impact student outcomes, such as retention and graduation rates for Black students, Latinx students and students from other underrepresented communities. 

DEI offices and policies are key tools to mitigate and address ongoing racial and gender inequalities that will flourish without intentional measures to create inclusive educational environments. DEI initiatives are essential to supporting campus cultures wherein all students, faculty, and staff feel welcome. All students in Texas are entitled to a learning environment in which they can thrive. We will continue to advocate for faculty, staff, and students to fully participate in an equitable and inclusive education.” 

This statement was signed by the following organizations: 

  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) 
  • Ethnic Studies Network of Texas Core Team 
  • Every Texan 
  • Texas Freedom Network 
  • ACLU of Texas 
  • Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition (TLEEC) 
  • Texas Students for DEI 
  • American Association of University Professors – Texas (AAUP-Texas) 
  • Equality Federation – Texas 
  • Texas Faculty Association (TFA)


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. 

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