Lawmaker files budget amendment requesting University report on-, off-campus discrimination

Eleanor Dearman

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) submitted an amendment to the House budget which would place university organizations, including fraternities, under close watch. 

The amendment — which applies to all student groups but singles out sororities, fraternities and athletic teams — would require universities to report on- and off-campus cases of gender, ethnic or racial discrimination to the Higher Education Coordinating Board, a multi-faceted state board that oversees state university operations.  

The Board would collect any information regarding occurrences of discrimination universities report and relay the findings to the legislature. 

The amendment is a response to nationwide cases of racial discrimination by fraternities, according to a report by The Texas Tribune.

The House is set to start their discussion on the proposed House budget Tuesday. 

Although the University cannot comment on specific pieces of legislation, University spokesperson Gary Susswein said officials support a welcoming campus.

“As with all legislation that could impact the University, we will review it closely,” Susswein said. “And I just also want to emphasize that, in general, the University works to make the campus as welcoming and supportive of an environment for all of our students as it can be.” 

Lee Lueder, Interfraternity Council president, said he does not know how effective the amendment will be. He said its impact would depend on what it does with the collected information after universities have reported it. 

Nationally, fraternities have been facing scrutiny for racial discrimination in the past months. 

UT’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, known as “FIJI,” hosted a “border control” themed party at an off-campus fraternity house in January. At the party, many attendees donned sombreros and ponchos. The University did not penalize the fraternity. 

“While the behavior doesn’t mirror UT core values, it’s within students’ right to freedom of speech at private off-campus event,” the University tweeted from the official UT-Austin Twitter account in February.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon stirred national controversy when members were recorded participating in chants containing racial slurs while traveling on a bus.  

Lueder said he thinks it is fair that the policy be enforced both on- or off-campus. 

“All of these organizations are registered with the University — are University organizations, so at least pertaining to sororities and fraternities,”Lueder said. “So I think it’s only fair that [the policy] be for all registered student organizations, whether it be … on- or off-campus.”

Rep. Martinez Fischer could not be reached for a comment.