This Texas Bill Could Ban Diversity Programs At Public Colleges and Universities
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- A bill introduced by State Rep. Carl Tepper aims to amend Texas' current education code and take effect by Sept. 1.
- House Bill 1006 would forbid publicly financed universities and colleges from funding, promoting, sponsoring, or supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion offices on campus.
- Tepper's bill would allow universities to promote diversity only to uphold equal protection laws, but nothing more.
A bill introduced in the Texas Legislature aims to increase “viewpoint diversity” by banning diversity, equity, and inclusion at Texas' public colleges and universities.
Texas House Bill 1006 would forbid publicly financed universities and colleges from funding, promoting, sponsoring, or supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion offices on campus.
It was introduced by State Rep. Carl Tepper, a Republican elected to the Texas House of Representatives last November in House District 84, which is entirely within Lubbock County and includes Texas Tech University.
Unlike other recently proposed bills that are looking to limit what courses are taught, such as Florida's Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act, Tepper's bill does not explicitly prohibit "divisive topics" in the classroom. However, it does suggest other adjustments to the current education code in Texas to programs focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
H.B. 1006 has yet to receive a committee vote in Texas' 88th Legislature, which began Jan. 10 and runs through May 29. Republicans control both chambers.
Though the bill could have big impacts on the state's flagship university, officials are staying mum.
Brian Davis, executive director of communications for the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), told BestColleges that the university does not typically comment or speculate about possible legislative changes.
What Does the Texas H.B. 1006 Propose?
Tepper's bill tacks on two new institutional responsibilities to the Texas education code for the state's public colleges and universities: "foster a diversity of viewpoints" and "maintain political, social, and cultural neutrality."
It also adds "published or unpublished faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary" to the list of "expressive activities" protected by the First Amendment or the Texas Constitution.
Section 3 of Tepper's bill — which includes the most substantial changes — states that each university must "adopt a policy detailing students' rights and responsibilities" regarding the expressive activities at that institution.
The proposed bill would add a clause that says university policies must adhere to certain restrictions:
- Policies must "demonstrate a commitment to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity."
- Policies are prohibited from "funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of any office of diversity equity and inclusion" including any office that supports those objectives beyond what is necessary to uphold the equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. constitution.
- Policies are prohibited from interfering with "any lifestyle, race, sex, religion, or culture" including "endorsement or dissuasion."
A final subsection highlights that if a party is successful in suing a college or university that is in violation of the law, then the entirety of that party's legal fees would be paid by "the chief executive officer of the institution or the institution's system."
Why Does Tepper Want To Ban Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs?
Tepper told The Daily Texan, UT Austin's student newspaper, that "... certain public institutions of higher education have fallen short in their duty to allow intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.”
“While I strongly believe that public universities should allow a wide variety of debates and opinions," Tepper said last week, "public universities should not use taxpayer dollars to inculcate students with certain politically divisive values.”
However, the first-term state representative spoke more extensively about his views on DEI programs prior to taking office in an interview with The Daily Signal, a publication of the Heritage Foundation.
"Departments are running amuck practicing 'reverse racism'..." Tepper said in a story published last December. "Keep your eye out; the public's fed up. A lot of tax dollars are flowing into these universities, and with tuition skyrocketing — dollars should go to operating costs and education, not woke activism," he said.
He added that "students should feel free to form any group they want" but that he doesn't believe in "[Texas] funding segregation," according to The Daily Signal.
Higher Ed in the Statehouse
The future of higher education in Texas — including the future of tenure, diversity offices, and the teaching of critical race theory — is bound to be a topic of discussion and deliberation during the state's nascent 88th legislative session.
In February 2022, a year in which the Texas legislature didn't convene, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick spoke out against the University of Texas at Austin Faculty Council, which reaffirmed instructors' rights to teach critical race theory in the classroom, according to The Texas Tribune.
"Tenured professors must not be able to hide behind the phrase 'academic freedom,' and then proceed to poison the minds of our next generation. … Universities across Texas are being taken over by tenured, leftist professors, and it is high time that more oversight is provided," he said in a statement last February.
"During the upcoming 88th Legislative Session, one of my priorities will be eliminating tenure at all public universities in Texas. To address already-tenured professors, we will change tenure reviews from every 6 years to annually. Additionally, we will define teaching Critical Race Theory in statute as a cause for a tenured professor to be dismissed," he said.