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Ban on DEI in public universities gets approval from Texas Senate

The Texas Capitol Building in downtown Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez

The Texas Senate moved forward a bill Wednesday night that would ban Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs in public universities.

Senate Bill 17was designated a priority this session by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. It now heads to the Texas House for consideration.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said his bill would prohibit public universities from keeping — or creating — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs or initiatives.

Creighton said DEI programs “have been shown to be exclusive.”

“They have been shown to be ineffective and they have shown to be politically charged,” Creighton said. “Many of these programs have been weaponized to compel speech instead of protecting free speech.”

The measure would also ban the use of diversity statements on faculty applications and would prohibit mandatory DEI training for university employees and students.

Creighton said Texas is committed to supporting diversity, but argued DEI programs are not the solution. He added that DEI programs have hurt the “brand” of some of the state’s public universities.

The controversial measure was debated for over five hours. It passed along party lines 19-12.

SB 17 is opposed by the NAACP and Democrats in the Texas Legislature.

Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, argued Wednesday that having DEI programs has helped the state make advances in hiring practices. He said it has helped diversify — to a certain point — the faculty in some universities.

Miles said eliminating the programs would have a detrimental impact on that progress.

“I don’t understand and have any idea how you all can understand what it is like for me and others to be minorities — and particularly for me — a black man not just in this state but also in this country,” Miles said. “You go as far as to tell us ‘no’ about some of the experiences that we experience and that we live out and that our children live out in these college campuses.”’

Miles also called eliminating DEI programs in public universities a mistake that could have a serious impact on more than just racial minorities.

“DEI is not just for African Americans,” he said. “It helps the entire university — for minority students, disabled students, veterans.”

But Creighton argued DEI programs have not been that successful in diversifying the faculty. He pointed out that many public universities only saw a slight increase in African American, Latino and Asian faculty members in the last decade.

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, said that slow increase is still positive.

“I think your bill is concerned we’ve made too much progress,” Eckhardt said. “Because if we get rid of these programs it is probable that progress will stop.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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