Hearing on DEI Policies Turns Democrat State Senator Into a Campus Diversity Administrator
“at one point after our prepared testimony, the panelists were treated like DEI officials treat students”
Adam Kissel, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs, testified at a hearing on DEI policies in Texas. The lone Democrat at the hearing morphed into a diversity administrator.
Kissel writes at the College Fix:
How a state senator acted like a campus diversity administrator
The days of campus DEI are numbered. For the uninitiated, that’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” — the nice-sounding terms that are weaponized by campus DEI offices and officials to suppress free and open inquiry on campus.
I testified on April 6 to support a bill in the Texas Senate to stop DEI offices from promoting policies or engaging in activities that treat people differently on the basis of race or other identities. Unfortunately, at one point after our prepared testimony, the panelists were treated like DEI officials treat students.
Our testimony went very well. After all, as expected, we won the vote. Dr. Ben Carson, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was one of the invited panelists along with me and two others. In short, my argument and data showed that DEI programs are generally expensive, counterproductive, and even unlawful. The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education ultimately passed SB 17 up to the Senate Committee on Education.
The discussion with senators after our presentations was civil though pointed. The one Democrat on the subcommittee, Sen. Royce West, was outnumbered on the stage but in the majority in the room, which was filled with opponents of the bill (many of whom were from the University of Texas at Austin). That’s basically how things are at Texas colleges: the red state has blue universities. Being in the majority or the minority depends on where one draws the lines.
But then at the end, Sen. West (pictured above) acted much like the kind of oppressive DEI official that the bill seeks to remove from higher education.
The senator first asked whether panelists support “diversity.” Consistent with my testimony, I answered that what really makes a university flourish is viewpoint diversity. Using race, or using stereotypes about identity, as a proxy for viewpoint is a fundamental mistake.
But my answer did not go over well. The senator proceeded to ask me whether I supported “ethnic diversity.” It was not a fair question. The only expected answer was yes or no. There was
no room to explain, as I had done in my testimony, that treating people on the basis of ethnic identity or ethnic stereotypes is a betrayal of equality and respect for the individual. There was no room to define what it would mean that I do or do not “support” “ethnic diversity.”
The roomful of tittering opponents, some of whom had stood and turned their backs at my testimony (blocking the view of the people behind them), was ready to titter some more if I gave the wrong answer. The social pressure was high for me to say, of course, yes, I support ethnic diversity.
But I couldn’t give him the short answer he wanted. It was an impossible scenario. So I said: “For what purpose, sir?”
The juvenile titters came, as expected. A public hearing like this is mostly for show (the outcome was never in doubt), and we all knew our roles.
Sen. West then went down the line, asking whether each of us support diversity, equity or inclusion. He left no room for definitions or explanations. Yes or no? For or against? Our answers had to be a brief form of the kind of mandatory diversity statement that college hiring committees demand of applicants, and which SB 17 would ban.
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“It’s meaningless. I don’t care about it one way or the other.”
Texas SB17 has a lot of good stuff in it, and it appears to be on a glide path to passage.
But it lacks any real teeth — enforcement is either through the university regents (and Texas state universities are notorious scofflaws when it comes to DEI, with the boards of regents being AWOL on the subject) or through the state AG (who has done nothing to rein in illegal DEI practices at Texas universities).
There are ways to enforce it using the power of the purse.
There are lots of ways to enforce SB17 that *could* have been written into the bill. Early drafts of anti-DEI legislation included private rights of actions and personal liability of involved state employees, with no immunity, but all of those got stripped out of SB17.
Instead, SB17 as currently written contains only two: (1) findings by university’s board of regents that a violation has occurred (which would trigger one year suspensions without pay of the people involved (for the first offense; second offense requires termination) and cost the university the lesser of 1% or state funding of $1 million), and (2) mandamus action by the state AG to compel (1). That’s it.
OK, the sanction in the bill sound severe, but what triggers the imposition of them? Let’s say that the UT diversicrats react to this law by deciding to just keep doing what they are now, either sub rosa or by just calling it something else. (Texas A&M’s diversicrats have literally been caught on camera saying that’s what they intend to do.) UT’s spineless board of regents has been letting all this illegal DEI activity go on for years because they are too cowardly to stand up to the wokesters. The AG’s office has similarly has done nothing (indeed, as Tim Jackson’s case against UNT demonstrates, the AG’s office has actively been *supporting* the DEI cancel culture bureaucrats).
So what exactly is going to motivate them to suddenly decide that they will enforce the *new* law, especially if nobody can make them do so, and if they face no liability if they refuse to do so?
Additionally, a suit by the AG to force the UT regents to enforce the law would have to be tried in Travis County district court, where all the judges are hard left partisan democrats. (Recall that Travis County has a Soros-backed DA — same Democratic primary dynamic applies to judicial races). Anybody that thinks a Travis County district court is going to rule against UT to shut down DEI programs is smoking something.
Unfortunately, I see SB17 as written as “feel good” legislation whereby the politicians can *claim* that they are being tough on DEI, but the law doesn’t have any real teeth. At the end of the day, the diversicrats will know that they can just do what they do now when confronted that what they are doing is clearly illegal (e.g.,“reserving” certain faculty positions for BIPOC’s): “Whaddaya gonna do about it?”
Update: the version of SB17 that was approved yesterday by the full Senate education committee changed the enforcement provision significantly.
The enforcement provision now is that every state university must be audited “periodically” (at least once every four years) by the state auditor to determine whether any state funds are being spent on any DEI activities in violation of the law.
If the audit shows any were, then “the institution is ineligible to receive state funds for the state fiscal year immediately following the state fiscal year in which the determination is made, other than state funds appropriated to pay debt service on bonds or notes previously authorized for the institution.”
On one hand, this does put a nasty Sword of Damocles over the schools — get caught and you get ZERO state funding for the next fiscal year.
On the other . . . I’d still like to see some personal liability for the individuals involved. But in the words of the philosopher Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want.”
If this passes — and it sure looks like it will — the question will be whether the state auditor will have the stones to make a finding that would cut off UT or TAMU, both of which have drunk the DEI Koolaid but retain significant political heft. Finding that these institutions have spent money on DEI activities (which I guarantee they will) and cutting them off for the next fiscal year would cause political earthquakes.
Nevertheless, I like this a lot more than what was in the earlier bill . . . although I still wish they’d just allow qui tam actions to enforce it.
“I’ve told you what I support, and why. What part of my testimony was unclear to you?”
“Yes, or no.”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘support’ and ‘diversity.’ For example, what you’re doing right now in the name of ‘diversity’ is divisive, destructive crap. Less of that would be good.”
I hope he’s right that “The days of campus DEI are numbered.” But I don’t see that happening.
In the private school where I worked, they were laying off most of the non-tenure-track faculty to save money at the same time they were hiring a new DEI vice-president and his retinue.
I also don’t think that blue states like CA will ever put the brakes on DEI, no matter how much it degrades the quality of the faculty (who have to submit pro-DEI diversity statements) or the students.
“I hope he’s right that “The days of campus DEI are numbered.” But I don’t see that happening.”
It’s like saying, “Joe’s uncontrollable gambling is going to last a month at most.” Nothing in that statement implies that Joe is going to see the light. Nevertheless, it will end, quite possibly because Joe ends.