Texas House Bill 1006, filed in December by Texas House Rep. Carl Tepper, is a bill proposal on a pile of race and culture-related bills that will attempt to reshape public higher education in Texas.
Much of the language in the bill is vague, value and right-wing virtue signaling, but the actionable part is banning universities from having Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) departments. These departments have bridged the gap in higher education for marginalized groups, and not only should they not be banned, but they should procure more funding.
The approval of this bill is possible because of similar ones passed by our state legislature in recent years like Senate bill 3 from the 2021 Texas special legislature that limits the ways in which history, more specifically race and slavery, are to be taught in public schools. HB 1006 would make the work publicly funded universities have made toward providing opportunities for everyone more challenging.
At Texas State, a minority-majority serving institution, we have the Division of Inclusive Excellence (DEI). The department has fallen under many different titles since its creation in 1983 such as the Minority Affairs Program (MAP), Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), Multicultural Student Affairs to the Office of Student Diversity, Inclusion, Institutional Inclusive Excellence – Student Initiatives (IIE-SI) and Inclusive Excellence – Student Connections and Belonging (IE-SCB).
These changes have been to compete for funding to represent numerous groups of students who are underrepresented in higher education.
Banning an office with goals to reach these students would be like taking away a lifeline for many students who use it.
DEI initiatives at Texas State include shortening the education gap for minority high school graduates, the low-income, first-generation, students with disabilities, as well as more recent initiatives and programs for student veterans, LGBTQ+ students and underrepresented males. In addition, the office helps acquire opportunities for otherwise marginalized groups of the student population.
Texas State is the birthplace of legislative action with the goal of educational access. It receives federal funds traced back to Texas State's most prominent alumnus, President Lyndon B. Johnson. As a TRIO-serving campus, Texas State has programs funded federally to provide educational access for those with disadvantaged backgrounds. These programs offer support to 62,000 Texas students and 900,000 nationally.
The bill by the Lubbock representative is conflicting in its choice of words.
The bill proposes prohibiting the "funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of any office of diversity, equity, and inclusion" and amends the education code so that institutions have the responsibility to "permit" rather than "transmit" the "diffusion of culture through general education." At the same time, the education code is also amended to task institutions with "[fostering] a diversity of viewpoints."
Rep. Tepper and his constituents argue that these departments are "reverse racism" or bad for the campus culture. In a statement, Tepper said that the use of these public funds by DEI offices is "woke discrimination, self-segregation, and division."
The bill's messaging is vague but it very clearly calls for the public defunding of initiatives meant to expand the academic and sociodemographic support scope of higher institutions.
Through the passage of this bill, Tepper's goal is that public universities stay politically neutral. By stopping the funneling of funds to these offices, "racial division and disharmony" will stop. He calls himself a proud American and Texan and that the expenditure of public money counters the views that signify those titles.
Being proud of his background should help Tepper in understanding that the diverse student population can be proud of theirs while also understanding others. Texas State's use of funds to run the DEI office creates a culture representative of its students and helps its population attain knowledge past their own background. To divert funds away from education is not to stay politically neutral.
The University Star reached out to the Texas State Division of Inclusive Excellence for comment, but they declined as they do not comment on pending legislation.
- Dillon Strine is a journalism senior
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