Texas eliminates DEI at public colleges and universities

Senate Bill 17 will prohibit 'establishing' and/or 'maintaining' a diversity, equity, or inclusion office in public Texas colleges and universities.

The law follows the University of Houston’s ban on DEI statements in faculty hiring

Texas became the latest state to ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in public schools earlier this month. 

Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 17 into law, prohibiting DEI offices in Texas public colleges and universities starting in 2024. The new law comes months after the University of Houston’s decision to ban DEI statements in faculty hiring. 

“The issue is not diversity – the issue is that equity is not equality, and DEI practices conflate the two, Governor Abbott’s spokesman Andrew Mahaleris told Campus Reform. “Some universities and woke professors have been using DEI to advance political agendas and exclude conservative viewpoints on college campuses. These efforts adversely affect our students, limit exposure to diverse thought, and destroy our education system.”

“Governor Abbott is proud to sign SB 17 into law because in Texas we give people the opportunity to advance based on talent and merit,” Mahaleris continued. 

According to the legislation, a DEI office promotes “differential treatment of or [provides] special benefits to individuals on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity.” The law outlaws mandatory DEI trainings, programs, or activities; as well as requiring DEI statements for job applicants. Participants in such activities may be disciplined or terminated.

[RELATED: DeSantis blocks taxpayer-funded DEI programs]

State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) said the bill is “the most significant ban on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in higher education in the nation.” 

“In recent years, DEI offices have grown in size and influence across college campuses requiring political litmus tests, compelled speech and mandatory diversity statements, Creighton said in a press release. “Despite hundreds of employees and millions of tax dollars, just here in Texas, DEI offices have failed to make progress advancing or increasing diversity.”

The law does not apply to student organizations, guest speakers, data collection, or student recruitment efforts. 

Additionally, the bill requests the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct a biennial study to note the effect of the law “disaggregated by race, sex, and ethnicity.” The board must report the results of their study and any recommendations to the legislature. 

[RELATED: Republican senators introduce bill to ban DEI requirements for university accreditation]

Texas public university systems, such as the University of Houston, set this standard ahead of time by banning DEI statements in faculty hiring in March. Chancellor Renu Khator announced UHS will “stand against any actions or activities which promote discrimination in the guise of [DEI],” as reported by Campus Reform

“In order to ensure compliance with state and federal law, we will not support or use DEI statements or factors in hiring or promotion anywhere in the University of Houston System,” Khator states. 

Campus Reform has reached out to all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.