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Texas higher education diversity offices banned by Abbott

Texas higher education diversity offices banned by Abbott

Texas’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has signed a bill that will ban diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices and initiatives across higher education institutions in the state.

Under SB 17, DEI offices across state colleges will close starting in January 2024 and activities that seek to promote certain groups of individuals over others based on race, ethnicity and gender will also come to an end.

The bill also prohibits diversity statements for job applicants at Texas universities, as well as mandatory DEI training for any purpose.

“Education is the greatest equalizer in our nation, and Texas is home to world class and innovative colleges and universities. The decisions we make for higher education today determine our Texas of tomorrow,” said Republican state senator Brandon Creighton, who introduced the bill in March.

“Now that these bills are law, institutes of higher education are better equipped to prepare the next generation of leaders, and keep Texas the economic engine of the nation,” he added.

Creighton went on to explain that what sets the bill 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”.

He condemned DEI offices, saying that they have “failed to make progress advancing or increasing diversity”.

Republican lawmakers have largely championed the elimination of DEI initiatives and offices across the state, arguing that they favor race over merit. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers argue that DEI programs help reduce discrimination.

Since the bill’s introduction, Democratic lawmakers have worked to push against it. State senator Royce West said at a hearing that the bill is “wrong”, adding, “As opposed to trying to fix the isolated incidents and make it a better program, you’re talking about dismantling the entire program,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

Others argued that removing DEI programs would negatively affect researchers’ abilities to secure funding as grants usually contain components of DEI requirements.

Earlier this year, Abbott’s office warned state agencies that using DEI policies in hiring processes violates state and federal laws.

In a memo reviewed by the Texas Tribune, Abbott’s chief of staff, Gardner Pate, wrote: “The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”

The bill follows a similar plan announced by Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor – and now presidential candidate – who in February vowed to block state colleges from having DEI programs on campus.

DeSantis’s pledge to abolish DEI programs and critical race theory comes as part of a broader “anti-woke” culture war which has targeted various communities that have already been traditionally marginalized.

On Tuesday, Abbott also signed a separate bill that codifies tenure restrictions, making it easier for universities to “dismiss underperforming professors” and will increase the frequency and rigor of tenure review.

Source: The Guardian