The law defines a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office as an office that gives different treatment to individuals according to their ethnicity, race, color or sex via programs, activities, training policies and procedures. It requires that state-funded colleges and universities do not form or maintain such offices, contract outside parties to perform similar duties, or require anyone to supply diversity statements or give anyone preferential treatment based on such statements. In addition, they cannot require anyone to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training, nor can they give preference to applicants for employment based on ethnicity, national origin, sex, race or color.
Any public institution of higher education that fails to certify its compliance with the new law will not be allowed to spend state funds that have been allocated to it. State auditors will occasionally perform audits of state-funded schools to ensure compliance; those that fail the audit and do not correct the violation within 180 days may lose their funding.
The bill also requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to carry out studies every two years through the end of the decade assessing the impact of the new law on students by race. The study must consider application, acceptance, retention, graduation and matriculation rates as well as grade point averages. This amendment was added to the bill in response to concerns by Democrats that schools might lose federal grants requiring them to show they are promoting diversity. The amendment also allows higher education institutions to make “reasonable efforts” to reassign those working in diversity and inclusion offices to other positions within the school offering comparable pay.
After the new bill was passed by the state's senate last month, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick praised legislators, saying in a statement: "The Texas Senate has now passed the strongest pushback on woke policies in higher education nationwide. For far too long, academia has been poisoned by woke policies and faculty seeking to indoctrinate our students. Professors did not believe we would push back on their advances, but they were wrong. Students should be taught how to think critically, not what to think."
Abbott also signed a bill that will make it easier for universities to revoke a professor's tenure in certain circumstances. Current policies surrounding tenure stipulate that professors who have earned this merit-based form of job security can only be terminated due to extreme circumstances such as severe financial restraints or a justifiable cause. However, the new law will allow professors to be dismissed for a range of other reasons, including moral turpitude, professional incompetence, unprofessional conduct and neglecting their professional responsibilities.
Texas will now join Florida in cracking down on diversity and inclusion initiatives at public colleges. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed SB 266 into law, which bans state funding for such programs at the state’s public colleges and universities. It also bans curriculum related to “identity politics” and critical race theory.
At the bill signing ceremony, DeSantis identified what he feels is wrong with DEI, saying: “This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda, and that is wrong.”
The new laws comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to ban colleges and universities throughout the nation from allowing race to be a factor in decisions about admissions.
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