AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As Gov. Greg Abbott tells state agencies that using diversity, equity and inclusion criteria in the hiring process is “illegal,” lawmakers in the legislature are pushing against the practice in Texas universities.
State representative Carl Tepper, R-Lubbock, filed a bill to prohibit higher education institutions from funding or supporting diversity, equity and inclusion offices. HB 1006 also prohibits any efforts to formulate diversity “beyond what is necessary to uphold the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“We call it division, inequity and indoctrination. The DEI office name is a misnomer,” Tepper said. “We feel like it’s purposely being misused, to push a very woke very liberal agenda. You can have any belief you want, you can have any care about race relations or sexual relations or what have you. But we think that on the state dollar, and the state budget, that these universities, these state departments, departments of the state of Texas, should be neutral.”
Tepper’s alma mater Texas Tech University, now in his district, said its Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion works “to foster, affirm, celebrate, engage and strengthen inclusive communities.” They provide mentors to first-generation students, cultural centers for minority students and outlets for the campus to engage with the intercultural community.
Tepper said he hopes his bill will get rid of those outlets. He called Texas Tech’s Black Cultural Center “self-segregation.”
“I would do away with that. We have some wonderful facilities for everyone,” he said. “We want our students to learn together and play together, interact together, not as a segregated society. We want to see distinguished Black alumni, the portraits of distinguished Black alumni all over campus, not just in the Black Cultural Center.”
Some attorneys worry the recent restrictions of DEI policies are misguided. Jay Ellwanger, an attorney who specializes in employment and civil rights litigation at Ellwanger Law, said DEI policies are already prohibited from discrimination by federal law and may attract businesses wanting to create a diverse and competitive workforce.
“The thing that struck me most in Governor Abbott’s memorandum to the state agencies was that I think he needed to go back to law school,” Ellwanger said. “Because the issues that were raised by this memorandum are impacted by areas of federal law that have been in place for almost 60 years.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends DEI initiatives as a best practice.
“EEOC makes it make extremely clear that you can’t have quotas, that you can’t purposely put a minority ahead of a nonminority in a DEI context if they’re not qualified,” Ellwanger said. “All the federal law says is that you can allow for other parts of someone’s makeup to go into that hiring equation, which again, allows for a company or state agency to hire more competitively, to get more viewpoints in the workplace, and just overall become more competitive.”
Rep. Tepper’s concerns are already shifting policy, however. Texas Tech University announced Wednesday they are eliminating DEI criteria. That decision comes after a Wall Street Journal report criticized the weight that some departments give to subjective diversity statements required in candidates’ applications.