Red State Gov Signs Bill Banning Diversity Offices, Initiatives At Higher Education Institutions

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Reagan Reese Contributor
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Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a piece of legislation into law Wednesday banning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices and initiatives at higher education institutions, according to a Senate press release.

Under SB 17, state-funded universities must close their DEI offices and can no longer hold activities which promote one group of individuals over the other on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity. The legislation was approved by both the state House and state Senate in May before being signed into law by Abbott on Wednesday. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: GOP Senators Introduce Bill Banning Higher Ed Accreditors From Considering ‘Diversity’ Initiatives)

“With this bold, forward-thinking legislation to eliminate DEI programs, Texas is leading the nation, and ensuring our campuses return to focusing on the strength of diversity and promoting a merit-based approach where individuals are judged on their qualifications, skills, and contributions,” Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, the sponsor of the bill, said in a press release. “What sets SB 17 apart from other proposals is that the legislation delivers strong enforcement with mandates to return Texas colleges and universities to their core mission– educate and innovate.”

The law also prohibits higher education institutions from considering diversity statements from job applicants and bans mandatory DEI training for staff.

“The consequences range from the unknown to the dire,” Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini told the Texas Tribune after the legislation passed both chambers. “Senate Bill 17 will be a giant step backward in our quest for equal opportunity and equal worth for all. … I worry that stifling diversity, equity and inclusion on our academic campuses … will breed the negative attitudes and behaviors typically attributed to ignoramuses while stifling the development of tolerant, enlightened communities.”

Abbott also signed SB 18, which bans universities from giving any employees tenure, into law on Wednesday, the press release states.

Across the country higher education institutions are using diversity statements to judge student and staff applicants; at the University of California, Berkeley, a DEI rubric was created to consider how job candidates have furthered diversity and equity initiatives. Several departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz, require applicants to submit a state detailing their past contributions to DEI.

“I want to thank Lt. Governor Dan Patrick for taking a stand and prioritizing these reforms, Rep. John Kuempel for advancing the bills in the Texas House, and Governor Abbott for his commitment to raising the bar for Texas higher education.” Creighton said in the press release.

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