A new investigation released by Accuracy in Media reveals how Texas universities are attempting to skirt a state law that bans Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies in higher education. 

Accuracy in Media (AIM)—an organization that empowers individuals to hold journalists, public officials, and private officials accountable—has released an undercover investigation showing multiple university officials saying they will continue DEI work under new names. 

Senate Bill 17, which took effect in January, effectively prohibits Texas universities from hiring employees to “perform the duties” of a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) office and is supposed to block any promotion of policies, training, or activities “designed or implemented in reference to race, color, or ethnicity.”

Despite the law being in effect, multiple universities around Texas have been attempting to circumvent the law. 

At the University of Texas at Tyler, Tarecka Payne, the Director of Student Belonging, told AIM’s undercover investigator that the university has had to change the name of its DEI department three times. She bragged that they can still do the DEI work, but they just have to be “creative.”

Similarly, Joe Posada-Triana, the Director of Underserved Students at the University of North Texas at Dallas, told the investigator that while the DEI office has been dissolved, the university is reclassifying the work under the word “belonging.” He added that their Diversity and Inclusion task force has been renamed the “belonging task force.”

At Tarleton State University, administrators have hidden their DEI initiatives under the “First Generation Initiative.” Academic Coordinator Marcus Brown said that the First Generation Initiative is already working with professors to train and bring DEI principles to students. 

“First Gen is really DEI all wrapped in one,” said Brown. 

At Texas Tech University, the DEI department is now being housed under the name “Campus Access and Engagement.” Jess Sanchez, the lead student success specialist, confirmed the new department, saying, “Campus Access and Engagement has been getting a lot of attention lately just because it’s the new [DEI] department, housing a lot of things that were under DEI.” 

Furthermore, the University of Texas at Dallas is continuing to have a “transition closet” for students. Aimee Howell, the Admin Project Coordinator, stated that the closet luckily gets to stay because it’s not just for people in transition but also for pregnant and parenting students as well. 

The University of Houston has also been able to sneak by the DEI law by passing down its Lavender graduation ceremony for LGBT students to one of its LGBT organizations, while faculty can still guide and advise the groups. 

Although many universities admitted to continuing DEI work, others including West Texas A&M University and Texas State University said the departments have since been dissolved and they no longer teach or provide DEI initiatives on campus. 

AIM President Adam Guillette told Texas Scorecard that DEI needs to be removed from all campuses, and administrators attempting to circumvent the law must be held accountable.

“Our investigation revealed that while some public colleges and universities in Texas are following the new law prohibiting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs, many school officials have found ways to circumvent it,” said Guillette. “DEI programs are a cancer that must be rooted out of our institutions, and that will require holding the radical administrators pushing this poisonous ideology accountable.”

Texas Scorecard has previously reported on Texas universities attempting to skirt the new DEI law by renaming their departments to continue implementing DEI initiatives. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.