SAN ANTONIO – The future of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, training, and offices at public universities may be coming to an end.
Texas lawmakers reached a consensus on a bill that would ban DEI at campuses across the state.
“I feel definitely the target of the LGBTQ community is very strong this year in state legislatures across the country,” said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, CEO of San Antonio Aids Foundation (SAAF).
On Saturday, Texas lawmakers reached an agreement on a new law that would ban DEI programs, offices, and training at publicly funded universities.
Rohr-Allegrini says this legislation is just another way to target specific communities.
“There’s long been attacks on equal opportunity options across the country, but definitely in Texas with this feeling like, well, you got ahead because you gave you were given a handout. That story has been around for a long time,” Rohr-Allegrini said.
She says diversity, equity and inclusion programs and training are critical for the inclusion of persons of all backgrounds at any organization or school.
“We have to work to give representatives to people of color, to the LGBTQ community, to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, to be the presence for them and help them up,” Rohr-Allegrini said.
She said she’s reached the level of academic success today, largely in part to DEI programs.
“I went to Yale School of Public Health, started 1992, a very long time ago, and I feel confident that I got in, in part, because I was a Latina. They were trying to diversify their student population,” Rohr-Allegrini said.
She says, despite being Latina, she certainly had the grades and the test scores needed for acceptance.
“I often say, ‘You open the door, let me in, and I’ll show you what I can do.’ And I feel like I’ve gotten to this point because I was given that opportunity,” she said.
Without programs that gave her an opportunity 30 years ago, Rohr-Allegrini says she wouldn’t be where she is today.
“I’d probably still be in my community working at a lower-income job and struggling to get by like a lot of my family members and friends,” Rohr-Allegrini said.
Senate Bill 17 says universities cannot create diversity offices, hire employees for DEI work or require any DEI training as a condition for being hired by or admitted at a university. All hiring must be color-blind and sex-neutral, according to lawmakers.
However, Rohr-Allegrini says without DEI, many could slip through the cracks.
“The reality is that if we’re not intentional about it, we won’t include people from all backgrounds. It’s not that we’re excluding people, but unless you’re thinking through who you do have here representing the community, it’s very easy to miss people in that process,” Rohr-Allegrini said.