Proposed bill could turn Civitas Institute into an official UT college

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

The Civitas Institute, UT’s conservative think tank established in 2022, has been no stranger to change during its brief yet contentious tenure as part of the University. If a new bill is passed in the state legislature, the institute may once again shift gears to become an official UT college.

SB 2030 would officially change the institute into the Civitas School of Civic and International Leadership — a formal college within the University — by Jan. 15 next year. The college would aid the University in educating future leaders in free industry and promoting independent thought, civil discourse and free speech according to the bill text.

“Through legislative action, Civitas Institute will be a leader in research, education and policy based on free markets, individual liberty and the philosophical and historical foundations of a free society,” said the bill’s author state Sen. Brandon Creighton in a statement according to the Texas Tribune.

The Civitas Institute previously touted itself as a medium for teaching “constitutionalism, limited government, free enterprise and markets and individual liberty,” according to a UT press release. The think tank’s creation was backed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to encourage free speech at the University.

As an official college, the Civitas School would require a dean and 15 tenure or tenure-track faculty members. The bill also outlines that the school’s inaugural dean would appoint a board of advisors with consultation from the University’s president and the UT System Board of Regents.

In addition, the bill would give the college’s board the opportunity to once again change the school’s name. The think tank was originally called the Liberty Institute before copyright challenges forced a name change.

The Civitas Institute previously garnered criticism from the UT community for prioritizing the interests of donors over student needs. The Tribune obtained emails between the Institute’s founders and professors Richard Lowery and Carlos Carvalho in 2021 saying they were disappointed with the hiring process and that the think tank steered away from its original intent.

The Civitas Institute declined to comment on this story.

The bill has been recommended to the Senate Higher Education Committee for review and, if approved, will then face a floor vote in the Senate.