If approved, SB 17 would require Texas’ public universities to dismantle their DEI offices, programs and training in the next six months. The bill also bans institutions from mandating any DEI training as a condition of employment or admission to the university, and orders all hiring practices be “color-blind and sex-neutral.”
The legislation would not affect course instruction, faculty research, student organizations, guest speakers, data collection or admissions.
DEI offices have become a fixture on college campuses in recent years. Aiming to support students from diverse backgrounds, DEI departments often aid in recruiting faculty and coordinating mentorships, tutoring and other programs for underrepresented students. Critics say the programs stoke racial division and unfairly prioritize social justice over merit and achievement.
Before Texas lawmakers voted on Sunday, Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) warned his colleagues, “Don’t be on the wrong side of history.”
“Don’t let Texas be the next state to get a travel advisory,” he went on, referring to the NAACP’s recent warning against travel to Florida. “Don’t let the politics of extremism get in the way in the progress that we’ve made over the years.”
Educators came out in opposition to the bill in a statement from the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors on Saturday.
The organization said it was “deeply disappointed by the conference committee report,” adding “the bill sends a clear message to students, faculty, and staff that our state is not committed to welcoming students from all backgrounds and to building a public higher education system that is truly inclusive and supportive of all.”
The educators’ group also said it is also worried the legislation could put state universities at risk of losing federal and private grants, which often require applicants to show they are making efforts toward diversity and inclusion.
Florida was the first to ban universities from using state or federal funds on DEI in early May.
Similar legislation has been proposed in over a dozen other states, according to an Associated Press analysis found using the bill-tracking software Plural.