Texas lawmakers have taken a decisive step to protect the principles of fairness and equal opportunity by passing a bill to ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at publicly funded universities in the state. This move, if signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, would make Texas the second state, after Florida, to enact legislation of this nature. The bill, known as Senate Bill 17, aims to eliminate DEI offices, programs, and mandatory trainings at Texas universities within the next six months, while ensuring that hiring practices are based on merit rather than factors such as race or gender.
Importantly, the legislation does not impact admissions, course curriculum, student organizations, faculty research, or data collection. It specifically focuses on addressing concerns related to compelled speech, political oaths, and racial profiling in university hiring. State Senator Brandon Creighton, the bill’s sponsor, emphasizes that Texas will prioritize the advancement of the most qualified individuals and endorse policies that promote true diversity and equality for the state.
The final version of the bill aligns with the one approved by the Texas House, with minor adjustments made during the conference committee. One provision that would have guaranteed reassignment of DEI employees to other positions with similar pay was eliminated. Instead, the final version allows universities to provide letters of recommendation to affected employees, demonstrating a reasonable approach to support their transition.
Critics argue that the lawmakers misunderstand the role of DEI in creating an inclusive environment for all students, regardless of their background. However, the bill’s intent is not to discourage diversity, but rather to ensure that it is achieved through fair and impartial means, without infringing on the rights of individuals or compromising the principles of merit-based selection.
Governor Abbott’s earlier instructions to state agencies and public university leaders to refrain from considering diversity in hiring were based on concerns about potential violations of anti-discrimination laws. The passage of this bill further reinforces the state’s commitment to upholding these laws and protecting individuals from any form of discrimination.
By passing Senate Bill 17, Texas is taking a stand for equal opportunity and merit-based selection processes in its publicly funded universities. The focus is on fostering an environment that promotes diversity while ensuring that individuals are treated fairly based on their qualifications and abilities. This legislation seeks to strike a balance between supporting diversity initiatives and upholding the principles of equal treatment for all.