AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, Texas senators reviewed progress to make sure public universities and colleges throughout the state are in compliance with Senate Bill 17, a law that requires Texas public universities to disband Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices by 2024.

According to a meeting agenda, the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education began meeting at 9 a.m. to consider a few topics, including the monitoring of the DEI law.

“Examine the implementation of Senate Bill 17, 88th Legislature, which bans discriminatory “DEI” initiatives at institutions of public higher education. Review and report on the progress each institution has made in aligning university policies and procedures with the provisions of Senate Bill 17, ensuring Texas college campuses foster equal opportunity and reward individual merit and achievement

Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education

State Senator Brandon Creigton opened the DEI discussion, a leading advocate to implement to ban of such practices in higher education. Creighton feels DEI practices did more to divide campuses, which is why he drafted legislation to end it.

“These ultimatums escalated, creating significant riffs on campus, targeting anyone who disagreed and many changes were demanded aiming to reshape the university into an institution focused on social justice and equality of outcome,” Creigton said. “This was when DEI bureaucracies grew out of control, replacing merit with equity for some.”

The senate received updates from both UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken and Texas A&M System Chancellor, John Sharp.

Milliken testified UT’s 14 institutions completed internal audits, which led to shutting down 21 DEI offices, getting rid of 311 positions and canceling 681 contracts. Milliken said the UT System reallocated over $25 million.

“I think through the audit process…we may in fact, learn that we haven’t addressed everything,” Milliken said.

Sharp testified Texas A&M system changes to comply with SB17, were less drastic as it was less involved in DEI efforts before the new law went into effect.

Ahead of the meeting, a group of protesters walked to the Texas State Capitol. Texas Rising, a project of the Texas Freedom Network that supports social justice work and young people of color, organized the walk.

Members from Texas Rising, TXS4DEI, Texas AFT, the Legal Defense Fund, and other youth advocacy organizations will testify in opposition to SB 17’s implementation.

“SB 17 was passed during the 2023 legislative session and prevents public colleges and universities in Texas from having diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices or policies. Since going into effect, campuses across Texas have laid off employees and closed departments potentially affected by the bill, with the University of Texas in Austin laying off 49 employees in April and UT Dallas completely shutting down the campus DEI office, laying off around 20 employees. 

Texas Rising
DEI Rally, march to the Capitol building Tuesday, May 14, 2024 (KXAN photo/Todd Bailey)

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus, the Texas State Conference of the American Association of University Professors and the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, along with other partner organizations, students and staff will also hold a press conference speaking out against the DEI law on Tuesday.