Texas Orders Mass Closure of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Offices at Public Universities

Students at the University of Texas at Austin lead an anti-Donald Trump protest / AP
June 16, 2023

All state-funded colleges and universities in Texas will have to close their diversity, equity, and inclusion offices under a measure signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The law, which one of its sponsors in the Texas state Senate called the most significant ban on diversity offices in higher education in the country, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court later this month is widely expected to ban colleges and universities from considering race as a factor in their admissions decisions.

Under the Texas law, signed by Abbott on Wednesday, any public college or university that does not certify it is in compliance with the measure would not be able to spend state funds allocated to it.

It also mandates that state officials every two years through 2029 conduct studies to gauge the impact of the law on students broken down by race. It will look at the rates of application, acceptance, matriculations, retention and graduation, along with grade point averages. The law does not explain the reasoning for conducting these studies.

The law is the latest salvo from Texas' Republican lawmakers and Abbott, also is a Republican, and comes as critics assail diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, efforts as divisive or anti-white, while proponents say they can help people from different backgrounds learn to work together.

"Texas is leading the nation and ensuring our campuses return to focusing on the strength of diversity and promoting a merit-based approach where individuals are judged on their qualifications, skills, and contributions," state Senator Brandon Creighton, a Republican who was one of the bill's authors, said in a statement.

But Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, said in a statement that the bill's signature marked a "sad occasion for all students at Texas' public universities."

"By dismantling diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and offices at these institutions, Texas lawmakers have chosen to prioritize a political agenda instead of the success of these students," Russell wrote.

She said all students, regardless of race, benefit from having a diverse student body, and that her organization would not stop working for Texas universities to be increasingly accessible and inclusive.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; editing by Donna Bryson and Leslie Adler)