Texas’ public universities are scrambling to rebrand their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts after Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law prohibiting DEI offices.
The new Texas law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, bans DEI departments and initiatives in public universities and prohibits colleges from holding activities that discriminate on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity. In anticipation of the law going into effect, some colleges in Texas have shut down their DEI departments, while others have renamed their DEI offices and altered their mission statements while retaining the offices’ staff.
“Public colleges work for the benefit of the state and should not try to undermine the state or state policy. Under state law, college DEI offices may no longer perform a variety of activities that focus on group identities,” Adam Kissel, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Several Texas colleges are opening new centers with employees from the DEI departments, and many are renaming the departments and giving them new mission statements.
“Our office will definitely be engaged with any sort of signals or indication that we see of any public universities not following the spirit and intent of the law,” Republican Texas state Sen. Brandon Creighton, author of the law, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) announced in November it would close its DEI office, according to Inside Higher Ed. The school said they would be opening a new office called the Office of Campus Resources and Support in a Nov. 29 letter. UTD’s president previously said in August that no one in the DEI office would be losing their jobs, according to Dallas Morning News.
The University of Houston (UH) closed its Center for Diversity and Inclusion and LGBTQ Resource Center and announced a new center called the “Center for Student Advocacy and Community” in August.
The goal of the center is to “build and maintain a network of campus and community stakeholders for student populations,” according to their website. The center will also hold events for “programs that promote a welcoming climate and cultural competency” and “heritage month and cultural programs and celebrations.”
The University of Texas (UT) at Austin renamed its Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to the Division of Campus and Community Engagement, according to Inside Higher Ed. The division offers programs such as “Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship” and “Women in STEM.”
Some universities in Texas previously required prospective professors to submit “diversity statements,” in which they signaled their commitment to the tenets of DEI.
“Essentially, many of our universities requiring those loyalty oaths had a neon sign above their doors saying, ‘if you don’t agree with us politically and you won’t sign this oath, you need not apply here,’” Creighton told the DCNF.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the use of DEI in public schools and universities in May. Several other Republican state Legislatures have proposed similar bans on DEI programs using public funds.
The Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature withheld pay raises from the University of Wisconsin (UW) system in October over its expenditures on DEI, and in December the UW system accepted an $800 million deal to slash its DEI efforts. The Iowa Board of Regents voted in November to eliminate DEI programs at state universities.
“Workarounds are challenging and put colleges at financial risk for noncompliance. DEI offices should be replaced with success initiatives that help students without regard to group identity,” Kissel told the DCNF.
UTD, UH and UT Austin did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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