Texas DEI on the decline?

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SB 17 is a bill that is stirring up a lot of concern for local institutions of higher education in Texas. Come September when the bill is to be enacted, Texan students will be subject to removal along with their instructors based on ideological differences. The latest trend of Texas legislature has targeted both grade school and higher education alike. This precedence has many students and faculty at UTA worried. After all UTA prides itself on its diversity; a selling point for the school.

 

The bill described is proposed legislation (that has already been signed by Governor Greg Abbott) which has passed in the Texas Senate relating to public higher education reform in the state of Texas. It introduces several amendments and provisions aimed at addressing issues related to institutional governance, ideological oaths or statements, and diversity, equity, and inclusion offices in higher education institutions. The specific wording of the bill denotes a more broad interpretation of what diversity and fairness means for higher education.

 

Certain amendments grant additional powers and duties to governing boards of higher education institutions. It includes establishing institution-specific goals, appointing chief executive officers, setting admission standards, approving core curriculum courses, and ensuring clear communication with the coordinating board. The coordinating board or The Board of the Texas Higher Education Board is elected by governor Greg Abbott for six-year terms. Meaning that the governor will appoint members of the board who will directly decide whether or not an institution is in violation of the bill.

 

The bill prohibits institutions of higher education from compelling students, employees, or applicants to endorse an ideology that promotes differential treatment based on race, color, or ethnicity. It also restricts preferential consideration based on unsolicited statements supporting such ideologies. Certain exceptions are outlined, including academic research, compliance with antidiscrimination laws, and discussions related to teaching methods or disabilities. An exception is also outlined for veterans as well.

 

Additionally, the bill seeks to dismantle diversity, equity, and inclusion offices in higher education institutions. It prohibits the establishment or maintenance of such offices and the hiring or assignment of employees to perform related duties that promote differential treatment, provide special benefits based on race or ethnicity, or conduct trainings or programs related to certain characteristics. This means that existing offices like some of those which the student government is composed of will be directly targeted. Violations can lead to penalties, including administrative fines up to $1 million dollars as well as employee actions.

 

The changes enacted by this bill would make it to where students and faculty who advocate for diversity equity and inclusion programs and ideologies would be subject to being expelled or terminated. This includes everything from hiring practices, to class work, and even protest. This may very well mean that in the coming Fall semester Texan’s, including University of Texas at Arlington, will see a lot of expulsion of both the staff and student body. UTA will also experience a removal of courses which educate students on diversity research and theories which violate this new law, once it is put into effect.