Texas seems poised to join Florida and other states in defunding university offices dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The Texas Senate passed an effective bill last month. On Friday night (May 19), the Texas House of Representatives adopted the Texas Senate’s bill with a couple of amendments on a vote of 83-60.
Senate Bill 17 requires Texas universities, among other things, to close their DEI offices, end mandatory diversity training, and restricts university units from asking for diversity statements. No public or private money can fund DEI offices.
To make the disbanding of such offices possible, someone must audit what universities do with personnel that used to run DEI offices. Universities do not like the bans so they may try to skirt them. They may reassign the people who used to run DEI offices to Student Affairs, where they will continue DEI programming. They may go to Human Resources, from which DEI offices emerged, where they can shape job searches. They could be hired as associate provosts with roving portfolios.
Under the Senate bill, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is tasked with overseeing the dismantling of these offices. The Coordinating Board can fine universities for continuing DEI offices and suspend or fire employees who violate the strictures of the law.
A late night amendment added by the House, however. may compromise the Coordinating Board’s ability to oversee the dismantling of DEI offices. The amendment forces universities to make “reasonable efforts” to find jobs for DEI personnel people whose jobs have been eliminated and universities should find jobs that pay the equivalent of their previous job.
The House amendment undermines the bill in several ways. First, it encourages the elevation of personnel who specialize in grievance industry. More than two dozen Texas universities have a highly-paid central administrator dedicated to DEI. The amendment encourages universities to shuffle central administrators to other positions in the central administration. Most DEI administrators are not qualified to do anything but grievance activism so they will just keep doing it with a more mundane-sounding titles.
The same problem arises at the individual college level.. More than fifty of the colleges at Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, University of Houston, and University of North Texas have associate deans dedicated to DEI. If these associate deans are to maintain the same level of pay, they will have to remain associate deans. And they will keep up their grievance activism.
Second, the House amendment makes the Coordinating Board’s job very difficult. Eliminating these positions is the best way to assure that no one is performing the DEI tasks. How will the Coordinating Board know what the old DEI functionaries are doing if they are reassigned?
Third, the amendment will embolden universities to defy the DEI office ban. Universities are committed to DEI. They have been lobbying to keep DEI offices for weeks. Just as universities work around the Texas ban on racial preferences, they are likely to work around Texas’ ban on DEI offices. Allowing them to reassign such personnel is an invitation to be snookered.
The Texas House will have a third reading of the DEI bill on Monday. It should seriously discuss the shell game caused by this amendment. The Texas Senate delivered a strong bill and it should demand that this compromising language be stripped before being sent to the governor’s desk. Republicans will incur the wrath of the DEI-industrial complex no matter what. They might as well get results too.
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