Texas bill could ban diversity offices in public universities

Gov. Greg Abbott told state agencies last week to stop considering diversity in hiring. Now, in the legislature, there's a filed bill that would ban diversity offices in public universities. 

HB 1006, filed by State Rep. Carl Tepper (R-Lubbock) says, in part, an institution has the responsibility to "prohibit the funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of any office of diversity, equity, and inclusion" and "prohibit any office that funds, promotes, sponsors, or supports an initiative or formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond what is necessary to uphold the equal protections of the laws of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) doesn't agree with this bill.

"I think it's discriminatory. I think it's out of touch with the great diversity of Texas and the overwhelming majority minority population. It's a bill that's unjustified," he said. 

The bill says, "A person may bring an action for injunctive relief against an institution of higher education to compel the institution to comply with this section. If the person prevails in the action, the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs to the person. The institution shall pay the fees and costs from the budget of the office of the chief executive officer of the institution or the institution’s system, as applicable."

The Texas Tribune reported last week that one of the departments at Texas Tech rated job candidates' commitment to diversity.

The university responded by saying they stopped the practice and started a review of hiring procedures.

Tepper has also filed another bill, HB 1046, that bans the requirement of diversity statements.

It says in part any student or applicant can't be required to "make a statement of personal belief supporting any specific partisan, political, or ideological set of beliefs."

These bills are similar to Abbott's memo telling state agencies to stop considering diversity when hiring. It says the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies violate federal and state employment laws, and hiring cannot be based on factors "other than merit." It also claims diversity initiatives have been manipulated to push polices that favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.

"If he goes through with this, as he seems he will, there will be legal challenges to him from doing so," Reynolds said.

He says the 1964 Civil Rights Act banned employment discrimination based on race, sex, and religion.

"These diversity, equity and inclusion policies are really an attempt to help level the playing field from generations of discrimination," he said.

As far as the bill goes, he says, "this shouldn't be a partisan issue, but it is. I'm hoping that there are Republicans of good conscience that said, 'no, this is not right. I'm not going to be on the wrong side of history.'"

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus will hold a press conference Tuesday against what they call Abbott's anti-DEI policies.

Abbott's State of the State address is Thursday.