By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

Diverse Voices: Texas’s Ban on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Centers

On June 14, 2023, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 17, which went into place Jan. 1, 2024. Senate Bill 17 requires that all state-funded colleges and universities close down their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Offices. On top of that, it also bans any required diversity training for both students and staff of the institution. It also prevents any diversity-based organization from being funded by the college or university, such as LGBTQIA+ centers on campus, but does not affect student-led organizations or clubs.

Supporters of the bill say that the purpose is to promote a merit-based approach to hiring. According to Click2Houston, the man who filed the bill, Houston-area Sen. Brandon Creighton said that he believes that Texas’s diversity should still be highlighted in schools, “However, the elevation of DEI offices, mandatory diversity statements, political litmus tests, and diversity training have the opposite effect and only further divides… DEI programs have become a million-dollar industry at taxpayer-funded institutions–yet they have made no progress advancing or increasing diversity.”

Other supporters of Senate Bill 17, such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have said that DEI hiring practices themselves are “discriminatory,” as they provide “special benefits” to people based on classes such as race, ethnicity or color. 

“Texans have some of the best higher educational opportunities available nationwide, right here at home,” Patrick said, according to the Houston Landing. However, DEI hiring practices have caused division and must be stopped.”

However, those who oppose the bill argue that the removal of DEI offices on Texas college and university campuses will have a negative effect on those students who are a part of marginalized communities. 

A former program coordinator in University of Houston’s (UH) LGBTQ Resource Center, Jamie Gonzales said, “There were students from out of state that would come to [the University of Houston] because it was listed as one of the most trans-inclusive campuses in the state … I absolutely think that if students have those funds and the resources to go somewhere out of state that is more inclusive, I imagine we will lose those students,” according to the Houston Landing.

CWU first-year music education student, Phil Furguson, a student program manager at the Diversity and Equity Center (DEC) on CWU’s campus echoed this same sentiment.

“Honestly, I think they’ll see dropouts. I think that students, primarily students of color and queer students, just are not going to feel like there’s a safe place there, which just flat out will not make people come there,” Furguson said. 

On Monday, Furguson and a group of other youth activists made the trip to Olympia to talk to state representatives about the importance of diversity initiatives in higher education.

 “It’s really important to focus on the impact that not only education has, but just seeing people have different identities,’ Furguson said. “I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Tacoma, and I was surrounded by people who looked and acted very different from me because I was in such a diverse community. I can confidently say that that’s had a positive impact on me.There are studies about not seeing queer relationships growing up affecting your views on queer couples later in life, and not meeting people of color regularly leads to more stereotyping.”

CWU students around the SURC seem to agree.“Here’s the thing,” said Jackson Garry, a first-year paramedicine student. “If it’s like colleges and for adults, then I really don’t feel like the government should have a say in that.”

Other students said that even if they don’t use DEC resources here on campus, they know somebody who does.

Twice a year, The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board intends to measure the effects of the new law, based on factors such as grade-point average, retention rates and graduation rates based on race, sex and ethnicity. They will then interpret their findings, and submit their recommendations to the legislator on Dec. 1 of each even-numbered year.

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