A Texas law that went into effect on New Year’s Day 2024 bars universities from pushing racist “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) on Lone Star State campuses, but several higher education institutions have already committed to skirting the statute so they can keep promoting the preferential treatment of certain races, ethnicities, “gender identities,” and sexual orientations. By superficially changing the names of DEI offices and positions but substantially retaining the racist ideology driving DEI, these universities violate the new law.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office first called DEI on campuses into question in a scathing memo in February 2023. The directive, aimed at heads of his state’s universities, warned that hiring on asking color or ideology instead of “merit” violates federal and state laws.
“Rebranding this employment discrimination as ‘DEI’ doesn’t make the practice any less illegal,” Abbott’s chief of staff Gardner Pate wrote. “Further, when a state agency spends taxpayer dollars to fund offices, departments, or employee positions dedicated to promoting forbidden DEI initiatives, such actions are also inconsistent with the law.”
By May, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 17 prohibiting academic institutions from using the DEI umbrella to circumvent antidiscrimination laws and hire someone based on their sex, race, or ethnicity or require faculty applicants to submit a “diversity statement.”
The statute also bars universities from promoting “preferential treatment of any particular group” and conducting trainings emphasizing “race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation” unless otherwise approved.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Failing to comply with the state’s new law could result in the loss of funding for public universities, which is why, on its face, it appears Texas campuses are dissolving their DEI offices and removing DEI requirements for admission and hiring.
However, even before the statute officially hit the books on Jan. 1, several universities committed to disguising their DEI offices and programs so they could quietly operate without penalty. Many of them used the same vague language left-wing ideologues tout to push their radical Marxist agenda.
University of Texas Dallas President Richard Benson promised in August that none of his school’s DEI employees or goals would go away. Instead, he said they will be renamed to avoid scrutiny or suspicion by the state.
“If you look past what maybe you call it, you know, diversity and inclusion, if it’s things like mentoring, recruiting and the like, support, we will continue to do those things. And so it’ll go under a different name,” Benson admitted.
University of Texas at San Antonio President Taylor Eighmy, similarly, told her campus that instead of eradicating the school’s DEI office, she planned to rename it to the Office of Campus and Community Belonging and keep the same staff.
“I’m writing today to share a new path ahead that upholds the law while still advancing our core values to ensure a welcoming, collaborative and supportive environment where all faculty, staff and students can thrive,” Eighmy wrote.
University of Texas in Austin made a big show last year of “halting” all DEI policies shortly after Abbott disseminated his memo in February. In June, however, UT President Jay Hartzell released a statement claiming the school is still committed to the DEI hiring agenda.
“What will not change is our University leadership’s commitment to attracting, supporting and retaining exceptionally talented staff, faculty and students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and fostering and celebrating diversity across our community.”
Internal UT communications obtained by The Federalist also show the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement announced it would rebrand itself as the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and plans to continue its pre-DEI law actions including “fostering access and belonging.”
“I am especially proud of how we engage our distinctive and diverse campus with our centers, support services, programs and events,” Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. LaTova Smith wrote, noting UT’s recent creation of the Disability Cultural Center.
UT also renamed its “Outreach & Inclusion” director title in the McComb’s School of Business to “Outreach & Scholarships.”
The University of Houston Downtown similarly renamed its DEI office the Center for Student Advocacy & Belonging. The mission on UHD’s website vaguely suggests the new office will “empower the university community to build a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment for all members of the UHD community through programming and training, and by engaging in outreach and advocacy efforts to add all students.”
A memo from UHD President Dr. Loren J. Blanchard obtained by The Federalist claims the University of Houston will comply with SB17 but admits the CSAB “reimagines” the DEI office by focusing on “fostering a community of care and connection for all Gators including parents, underrepresented groups, first-generation students, and low-income students.”
It’s Time To Lay Down The Law
Higher education institutions in Texas are required to certify their compliance with the code to the lieutenant governor and speaker of the state house of representatives by Dec. 1 each year.
The law also states anyone can report uncompliant universities to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who “may file suit for a writ of mandamus compelling the institution to comply with this section.”
The Federalist asked Paxton whether he plans to investigate and prosecute universities committed to skirting the new law, but his office refused to comment.
Establishment Republicans in the Texas House already tried to water down the DEI bill and prevent several key enforcement amendments. Even the reinforced bill, however, is deficient if it lacks enforcement.
Universities that are given an inch for their ill-named diversity shenanigans will inevitably take a mile and use it for their radical DEI agenda. If the Texas law goes unenforced, there’s no doubt the overpaid administrators who spent decades making this radical racist ideology a pillar of academia will take advantage of that leeway.
As the corporate media and leftist elites’ reaction to disgraced former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s lack of ethical standards demonstrates, higher education institutions can’t simply be reformed with words on paper. They must be defunded.
“We’ve got to make sure that the law that we passed, is enforced properly and universities must be stopped,” Texas Rep. Brian Harrison told The Federalist. “Quite frankly, I think we need to go further.”
Harrison sent a letter on Wednesday asking Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan to make “banning all race-based admissions, employment, and contracting practices in public universities, private universities that accept federal money, and all government entities” a priority in the next legislative session.