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Texas Southern University’s Law School Responds To State’s DEI Job Cuts

Texas Southern University x HBCU
Texas Southern University (TSU) // Credit: michelmond/Alamy Live News

Texas universities are facing job cuts due to the enforcement of Senate Bill 17, which prohibits Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in publicly funded universities.

The bill also bans mandatory diversity training and restricts hiring departments from asking for diversity statements, essays in which job applicants talk about their commitment to building diverse campuses.

The Associated Press reported that over 100 jobs have been eliminated across the state as a result of this bill.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who filed the bill in 2023, argued at the time that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices in academic institutions impose political beliefs on faculty members and students and prioritize social justice over merit and achievement.

“DEI programs have been shown to be exclusive, they have been shown to be ineffective and they have shown to be politically charged,” he said. “Many of these programs have been weaponized to compel speech instead of protecting free speech.”

The bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on June 17th, 2023, and it came into effect on January 1, 2024.

At Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are woven into its fabric.

“We are lucky that we do not have a certain group or certain offices, positions that we have to eliminate. Our whole mission is diversity equity inclusion. You cannot eliminate a mission,” said TSU Law Review editor Lauren Gonzales. 

Despite these job cuts, Gonzales believes that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have the potential to make progress. Recently, a panel discussion was held at the law school, where government leaders and students discussed the matter.

The Thurgood Marshall School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

“You cannot eliminate a mission.” – Lauren Gonzales

“It’s mind-boggling to me that folks want to go backward, they want to stay in the darkness. They want to stay in a time where people who look like us were not given the opportunity,” said State Rep. Armando Walle of House District 140 in Harris County.

Supporters of SB 17 are taking strong measures to ensure its compliance, even sending letters to universities such as the University of Texas at Austin. According to an Austin American-Statesman report, many DEI staff members there are being laid off.

In a statement to KHOU 11, SB 17 author Senator Brandon Creighton said it’s the strongest DEI ban in the nation.

“DEI has produced less diversity, divided students, and mandated political loyalty oaths before anyone gets an interview,” Creighton said. “It’s been a failed experiment that threatens free speech and is a drag on research and innovation at many of our best colleges and universities.” 

Critics argue that dismissing or letting go of staff will not lead to a welcoming and inclusive environment in higher education institutions.

“This is the time now more than ever that we have to double down on supporting our HBCU and alone actually giving back if you can. Because when you look at things like DEI, this is literally the reason our HBCUs were necessary,” said State Rep. Rhetta Bowers of House District 113 in Dallas.

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