Dear Faculty and Staff,
I’m reaching out to you again with an update on three important bills being considered this legislative session, Senate Bill 16 (Critical Race Theory), SB 17 (DEI) and SB 18 (Tenure). Since I last updated you, there have been significant changes to each of these bills.
Last Monday, May 8, the House Committee on Higher Education held a public hearing on both SB 17 and SB 18. After consideration during that hearing, the committee held a vote on updated versions of those bills from the versions that had previously been adopted by the Texas Senate.
As it was voted out of the committee, SB 17 prohibits the establishment or creation of a DEI office, with the exception that the governing board of the university system may approve DEI programs if they are required by state or federal law, if determined to be necessary to receive federal, state or private grants, or are required by an institution’s accrediting agency. The bill also incorporates one provision previously included in SB 16 (CRT bill), which establishes that a public institution of higher education must be committed to creating an environment of intellectual inquiry, academic freedom and intellectual diversity.
As a provision of SB 16 was incorporated into SB 17, SB 16 will not move forward as a stand-alone bill.
You can review the full text of committee substitute to SB 17 here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/billtext/pdf/SB00017H.pdf#navpanes=0
As it was voted out of the committee, SB 18 does not prohibit the awarding of tenure to any faculty at state universities. Instead, the bill codifies certain processes regarding the awarding of tenure, post-tenure review and termination of tenured faculty. In our review of the legislation, much of the processes laid out in this new version of the bill are similar or the same as those of the universities within our system.
You can review the full text of the committee substitute to SB 18 here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/billtext/pdf/SB00018H.pdf#navpanes=0
SB 17 and SB 18 will now advance to debate among the full membership of the Texas House. At that time, the members of the body can propose additional amendments to each bill. The last day a Senate Bill can be considered in the Texas House is next Monday May 23. If the bills receive a majority vote, they will return to the Texas Senate who can either agree to the final house version or request a conference committee to compromise on the differences. There are still many opportunities for text of these bills to change between now and the end of the session on May 29.
I will continue to keep you informed as the session winds to an end less than two weeks from now.
JASON S. M. SMITH (’09), M.C.M.
Government & Community Relations
University of Houston System
Follow me on Twitter: @UHjsmith