North Texas Daily

Anti-DEI, CRT bills stand to dramatically change public institutions

Anti-DEI, CRT bills stand to dramatically change public institutions

Anti-DEI, CRT bills stand to dramatically change public institutions
April 21
13:00 2023

As the 88th Texas Legislature began, an onslaught of bills that would fundamentally transform state universities’ operations entered the chambers. These bills do away with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, critical race theory teachings and academic freedom in order to solve non-existent problems and limit the support given to already marginalized student populations. If passed, these bills would become the largest state overreach regarding higher education.

The Texas Legislature’s quest to ban DEI and restrict critical race theory centers around Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Senate president. If passed with a majority in both the House and the Senate, Senate Bills 16, 17, 18 and other damaging bills will go into effect on Sep. 1, 2023. Should the bills pass with a two-thirds vote in both chambers, they will take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, as stated in Article III of the Texas Constitution

Lt. Gov. Patrick’s best solution to combat supposed “indoctrination” in schools is Senate Bill 18, which eliminates tenure for all new faculty hires in public institutions. The bill prohibits permanent employment status, removing faculty members’ protection and ability to teach without fear of retaliation. Jay Hartzell, president of University of Texas at Austin president said in a letter to faculty, said Lt. Gov. Patrick’s push to eliminate tenure would only cripple” Texas’ chances of recruiting quality faculty members, leaving students with little in-state options for a first-rate education.

Tenure is a key component of academic freedom and recruiting faculty, but the Texas Legislature would do away with such practices to combat baseless fears of “indoctrination.” Senate Bill 18 would also allow the governing boards of public institutions to create an alternate-tiered employment system for faculty. 

The Texas Senate already passed Senate Bill 16, prohibiting public institutions from compelling students to adopt certain beliefs. The deliberately vague and innocuous language behind the bill creates a tense atmosphere around what professors can discuss within their lectures. Despite the prohibition around compelling students, Senate Bill 16 forces public institutions to be committed to ideals of intellectual inquiry, academic freedom and intellectual diversity. How can professors lead such discussions and promote intellectual inquiry when it could be considered indoctrination? 

Senate Bill 17, the most egregious of the aforementioned bills, makes multiple amendments to the Texas Education Code. The bill states that public institutions can no longer establish or maintain diversity, equity and inclusion offices nor hire employees to perform DEI duties or risk being fined $1 million or one percent of their annual budget from the state. Employees can also be directly penalized for performing DEI duties.

These changes to the Texas Education Code could erase universities’ multicultural centers and Divisions of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access. This would end countless jobs and do away with support and safe spaces for minority and marginalized groups. Programs offered by UNT’s Multicultural Center, such as the Black Student Experience and Latinx Student Experience and special graduation ceremonies like La Raza and People of Nia, could vanish in future semesters. In some ways, these events are at the core of minority students’ experience at UNT, but because of this, they wouldn’t exist for future students. Furthermore, policy directives or “riders” within the legislature’s budget appropriations for state funding prohibit the use of state funds for DEI practices, programs, personnel and training, which is another nail in the coffin to end DEI practices within the state. 

While Senate Bill 17 and its Texas House of Representatives counterpart, House Bill 3164, state that DEI bans don’t restrict “the activities of student organizations registered with or recognized by an institution of higher education,” the sheer vagueness of both bills in regard to DEI and the punishments universities can face almost ensure student organizations will be affected. 

Concerns about the future of campus life are further complicated by the Texas public institutions’ administration’s continued silence on the bills. No university has even made an effort to ensure students that their organizations and campus life will be unaffected, all not to poke the bear that is the Texas Legislature

Publicly-funded scholarships, accreditation programs, observation of important minority history events and our very campus life are all affected. The Texas NAACP and multiple student-run coalitions, such as the Texas Students for DEI, are fighting to prevent the passage of the bills and soften their impacts on institutions. Students need to join the fight because even if it doesn’t affect you, it’ll affect your friends, your professors, and future students to come.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Alfred Dozier

Alfred Dozier

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