by Dr. Carol M. Swain
Americans once said, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” Hopefully after this legislative session, Americans will say, “As Texas goes, so goes the nation.”
The Lone Star State’s leaders are fighting fiercely right now to restore non-discrimination and equal rights under the law. These are American values embedded in U.S. civil rights laws and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but they’re no longer practiced—or enforced.
Restoration of these values looks like SB 17, a bill pending before the legislature, which has national implications for higher education. It could be the first step toward bringing balance, fairness, and true diversity to Texas colleges and universities.
SB 17 seeks to rein in some of the nonsense that has been birthed on college campuses. It would do this by providing oversight of hiring and retention. Its main provisions would prohibit public institutions from requiring its faculty to submit or swear allegiance to ideological statements that compel differential treatment of individuals who fall into the university’s designated definition of a marginalized group. Job applicants and existing faculty would not be asked to submit statements divulging their views or committing themselves to engage in discriminatory behavior based on someone’s ascriptive characteristics.
The law would also prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices, or similar ones by any other name, to focus on applicant’s race, sex or sexual orientation, color, or ethnicity when hiring. Hiring decisions would instead be based on neutral criteria that fulfill the requirements of federal nondiscrimination law as codified in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Titles 6 and 7.
Since “diversity training” has morphed into divisive indoctrination sessions, it also would be prohibited at public universities. Removing the diversity, equity, and inclusion officers at public institutions would still leave intact federal requirements established with Executive Order No. 11246, which “requires affirmative action and prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” Democratic administrations added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” These protections do not establish a right to preferential treatment.
What we have lost in the debate around diversity, equity, and inclusion is the original intent of the civil rights acts that came out of the civil rights movement. The term “diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)” sounds harmless, and at first glance it seems to be based in good moral tenets. Diversity, however, has taken on a new meaning.
Lost in the new meaning of diversity is our national motto, E Pluribus Unum—out of many, one.
DEI divides people rather than unites them. It is rooted in a Marxist worldview in which conflict is touted as a means to bring about a utopian world. We know it has never worked in any society. And in the 2020s it is destroying higher education in America and the ideological diversity necessary for young people to develop critical thinking skills that come from grappling with ideas, even ones not found in the liberal playbook. Even scholars cannot do their best research in an environment that constrains thought and behavior or runs away from dissenting beliefs or opinions.
Texas leaders of a sound mind are taking on a monster. DEI is a billion-dollar a year industry that claims to pursue social justice. But like everything else, social justice has a new, twisted meaning that ignores fairness and true justice. It is about group appeasement and equal outcomes.
I am rooting for Texas to lead the nation toward a more equitable society in the traditional sense. Nondiscrimination and equal opportunity without group preferences is the ideal. If Texas is successful, the millions of dollars being allocated there to hire DEI professionals who endorse and embrace conflict and unrest can instead be redeployed for the recruitment of underserved populations. This can be done by making those underserved college-bound students aware of opportunities and providing the remedial assistance some will need to attend institutions of higher education. Authentic equal opportunity does not demand, nor does it require equal outcomes.
As we think about these issues, keep in mind that DEI is NOT based on federal law or constitutional principles. It is being pushed for political purposes and asserts itself as affirmative action on steroids. “Diversity” has been turned upside down, inside out, and all around.
The required oath statements and confessions required by many DEI programs violate the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause, which not only protects free speech but also prohibits compelled speech. No student or faculty member should ever be forced to show support for policies, programs, and causes such as Black Lives Matter, Antifa, or LGBTIA+ activities that offend their conscience or stated beliefs.
We must remember that our nation’s U.S. civil rights laws and amendments protect every person in the United States.
Men are protected as well as women. Heterosexuals are protected as well as homosexuals. Christians are protected as well as Muslims, Buddhists, and Wiccans. and White are protected as well as racial and ethnic minorities.
This is the real law of the land. Texas is ahead of the curve on this issue. If the state legislature passes SB 17 and Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law, it will protect all Texans against discrimination.
Whatever Texas does, the U.S. Supreme Court will be the final arbiter because of cases now pending. Let us pray the Court rises to the occasion and takes a strong stance in reaffirming the law of the land and our constitutional protections.
– – –
Dr. Carol Swain is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a former tenured professor at Vanderbilt and Princeton universities. She is the author of “Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down the House” (co-author, Dr. Christopher Schorr).
Photo “College Classroom” by Dom Fou.