By Kaanita Iyer and Chris Boyette, CNN
(CNN) — Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Wednesday that bans diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices at public colleges and universities across the state, his spokesperson confirmed to CNN.
The state legislature passed the bill last month largely along party lines with supporters arguing that DEI efforts promote racial profiling and slashing funds for such programs will save taxpayers millions of dollars. The bill’s critics, however, argued that it promotes discrimination and would impact colleges from attracting diverse students.
With the signing, Texas joins more than a dozen, largely GOP-led state legislatures that have introduced or passed bills reining in DEI programs in colleges and universities.
SB 17 prohibits higher education institutions from establishing or maintaining a DEI office and bans mandatory diversity training for students and employees. The legislation adds that institutions can’t “endorse an ideology that promotes the differential treatment of an individual or group of individuals based on race, color, or ethnicity” or require students and employees to disclose their “race, color, ethnicity, or national origin” unless necessary for demographic information.
However, the bill makes it clear that it does not restrict academic instruction related to race and diversity and makes an exception for equity measures required by a court order or federal law.
The law will take effect January 1.
The office of bill sponsor state Sen. Brandon Creighton described the law as “the most significant ban on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in higher education in the nation.”
“With this bold, forward-thinking legislation to eliminate DEI programs, Texas is leading the nation, and ensuring our campuses return to focusing on the strength of diversity and promoting a merit-based approach where individuals are judged on their qualifications, skills, and contributions,” Creighton added Wednesday in a statement celebrating Abbott’s signature.
Meanwhile, opponents of the bill slammed the move, arguing that it “perpetuates the cycle of ignorance and discrimination.”
“SB 17, which bans DEI, sends a distressing message that Texas, a state which has the largest population of African Americans, is unwilling to confront systemic inequalities and provide an inclusive learning environment for all students,” said state Rep. Ron Reynolds, the chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, in a statement.
Scrutiny of DEI initiatives in colleges and universities has increased in recent months, largely from conservative lawmakers.
Last month, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to defund DEI programs at public colleges, and in April, North Dakota GOP Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law a ban on mandatory training for students and employees on “divisive” concepts, including race.
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