Texas legislators have filed three bills — “Banning Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Higher Education” S.B. 16), “Banning Discriminatory ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ (DEI) Policies in Higher Education” (S.B. 17), and “Eliminating Tenure at General Academic Institutions” (S.B. 18) — that could prohibit the teaching and training on concepts related to race, religion, politics, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation and ending tenure and academic freedom at public colleges and universities across Texas. These bills seek to expand upon Senate Bill 3, the K-12 Texas anti-truth law passed in 2021, by targeting public colleges and universities. The impacts of Senate Bill 3 have been felt throughout the state and have created chilling effects for educators who fear punishment for teaching about historical events such as slavery or the Holocaust and its vestiges that manifest throughout current forms of discrimination today.
Truthful and inclusive discussions about United States and Texas history – like the Guerrero Decree, Juneteenth, the Slocum and Porvenir Massacres, Jim Crow laws and segregation – and their connection to present-day inequalities are essential to accurate and quality academic instruction.
S.B. 16 failed to become law. S.B. 16 would have prohibited faculty from compelling students to adopt a belief that any race, sex, or ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief is inherently superior to any other race, sex, ethnicity, or belief at a public institution of higher education. The penalty for violating S.B. 16 would have been termination and revocation of tenure, if applicable.
S.B. 17 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024. S.B. 17 prohibits Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies designed to remediate histories of discrimination in the United States and Texas against underrepresented minorities and the ability for professors and administrators to foster more inclusive colleges and universities. For example, S.B. 17 may ban DEI policies that help to cultivate more diverse campus culture and programs that provide leadership and development opportunities for members of historically excluded groups. Additionally, the law may prohibit educators from receiving critical training that help prevent actions and behavior that could inadvertently disadvantage students from historically marginalized backgrounds.
S.B. 18 took effect on Sept. 1, 2023. The bill prohibits tenure in higher education across Texas, potentially preventing professors from having the freedom to teach in accurate and inclusive ways. Tenure allows professors to teach subjects that implicate a variety of subjects, such as race, gender, and sexuality, without fear of punishment for their ideas. S.B. 18 attacks the bedrock of academic freedom in Texas and disproportionally impact students and professors who are already underrepresented due to historical patterns of exclusion and discrimination.
S.B. 16 failed to pass in the Legislature. S.B 16 would have prohibited faculty from compelling students to adopt a belief that any race, sex, or ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief is inherently superior to any other race, sex, ethnicity, or belief at a public institution of higher education. The penalty for violating S.B. 16 would have been termination and revocation of tenure, if applicable.
S.B. 17 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024. S.B. 17 prohibits diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and policies in Texas public colleges and universities. Specifically, S.B. 17 prohibits:
If an institution violates S.B. 17, it will lose state funding for the next fiscal year. A student or employee, if required to participate in mandatory diversity training in violation of S.B. 17, may sue the institution for injunctive or declaratory relief.
S.B. 18 took effect on September 1, 2023. S.B. 18 allows institutions to continue to grant tenure to faculty while significantly weakening the protections and benefits of tenure. S.B. 18 weakens tenure through limiting a faculty member’s property interest in tenure to their “regular annual salary,” places the authority to grant tenure is in the hands of those without disciplinary expertise, and contains vague language around just causes for dismissal such as engaging “in unprofessional conduct that adversely affects the institution or the faculty member’s performance of duties or meeting of responsibilities.”
Taken together, S.B. 16, S.B. 17, and S.B. 18 sought to create an environment that may jeopardize free speech through state censorship, have a chilling effect of self-censorship, and punish faculty and universities that strive to create a space where all people are welcome and their histories are truthfully told.
Despite the failure to enact S.B. 16 and the weakening of S.B. 17 and S.B. 18, Texas students, parents, educators, and residents must remain vigilant and continue to oppose future efforts limit or restrict the truthful teaching of American history, DEI policies designed to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment, and academic freedom to teach in accurate and inclusive ways.
LDF has compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions about Critical Race Theory. Learn more about CRT, laws banning racial justice discourse, and how these fit into a larger effort to suppress the voices, history, and political participation of Black Americans.
LDF is at the forefront of the fight to ensure that America lives up to the ideals of justice and equality for all. The right to free expression and the right to vote are cornerstones of our democracy. LDF and coalition partners are fighting back to protect truth.
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