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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Gov. Abbott announces plan to ensure stronger SB 17 compliance

Angela Leon

Gov. Greg Abbott plans to implement more compliance measures for Senate Bill 17 during the next legislative session to ensure a complete ban on diversity, equity and inclusion hiring practices, offices and trainings at public universities, he announced at the Texas Policy Summit on March 20.

Abbott said some universities needed to be held accountable for disregarding SB 17. Senator Brandon Creighton, the  bill’s author, sent a letter on Tuesday inviting all public Texas universities to a hearing in May to evaluate their compliance. 

“We are concerned about the ideology that is being hammered into our kids when they go to our schools and our colleges,” Abbott said at the summit. “Our kids are not learning the core elements that will ensure they (will) be better qualified to compete against their peers across the country or across the globe. Instead, they’re being indoctrinated with ideologies from far-left, socialistic-based professors at our universities.” 

Elsie Kindall, government affairs associate for Equality Texas, said the vague language of SB 17 makes compliance tricky. She said the University’s closure of the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center in favor of the Women’s Community Center, were necessary to comply with the law. 

“What (SB 17) considers exclusion is just what people would call usually ‘safe places’ like safe places for Black students, safe places for Latinx students,” Kindall said. “Those places are seen to be exclusionary to other students who don’t belong to that demographic group.” 

However, Kindall said the University’s closure of programs like Monarch, which supported undocumented students with no regards to race or sexuality, may be considered over-compliance. 

“Nowhere in SB 17 does it list immigration status,” Kindall said. “It does not ban programming that enhances academic achievement or post-graduate outcomes related to immigration status.”

According to internal communication obtained by the Texan, Monarch was also terminated due to a potential violation of U.S. immigration laws in addition to SB 17 compliance.

UT transformed their Division of Diversity and Community Engagement into the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and changed programming to comply. Other public universities like the University of Houston and Texas A&M also shut down their diversity centers. Texas A&M also removed all of their Office of Diversity employees, according to The Battalion. UT guided some staff to different roles in light of SB 17. 

In his letter, Creighton said he suspects some universities merely renamed their DEI-based centers. His letter warned universities that if the Senate Education Committee finds they under-complied with the bill, the state can freeze the universities’ state funding. 

Texas law professor Randy Erben said the May hearing will provide a good indication of how the 2025 legislative session will go.  He said as long as Republican lawmakers continue to hold both legislative houses, the state will not back down on increasing the bill’s restrictions. 

Erben said re-examining the bill in the 2025 legislative session puts any of the bill’s current exceptions at risk, including University registered student organizations, academic course instruction, guest speakers, data collection and student admissions. He said the further the restrictions go, the closer the bill gets to potential first amendment challenges. 

“They could go further,” Erben said. “Sure they could. They could include more programs and be even more prescriptive in what they’re asking people to do or not do.”

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About the Contributor
Naina Srivastava, Senior News Reporter & Senior Photographer
Naina is a freshman journalism major from Mountain View, California. She is currently a senior news reporter and senior photographer at the Texan.