Not All Texas GOP Lawmakers Are Pushing to Stop ‘Woke’ Ideology on Campus

Not All Texas GOP Lawmakers Are Pushing to Stop ‘Woke’ Ideology on Campus
Travis Ballie holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 10, 2012, in Washington, during arguments for and against affirmative action in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas (UT) at Austin. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
2/9/2023
Updated:
2/9/2023
0:00
News Analysis

Race-based discrimination targeting whites and anti-American political theories embedded in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices and classes are common at major Texas universities.

Now, some conservative lawmakers in one of the reddest states in the nation say they want to stop it.

But Republicans seem to have varying levels of resolve on the issue. It’s questionable whether GOP legislators can muster the political will to follow through on eliminating university DEI policies applauded by liberals.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the most powerful politicians in Texas, has been the most outspoken critic of the universities’ adoption of programs aligned with Critical Race Theory (CRT),  represented by policies known by names like DEI or progressivism.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaks at a press conference on the border wall at the state capitol in Austin, Texas, on June 16, 2021. (Mei Zhong/The Epoch Times)
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaks at a press conference on the border wall at the state capitol in Austin, Texas, on June 16, 2021. (Mei Zhong/The Epoch Times)

Critics describe CRT as a Marxist-based ideology that divides people into groups—either oppressors or victims—mainly based on race and gender.

Supporters of CRT say it challenges the traditional narrative about America’s history.

Those who back CRT say they seek to make America more equitable by proactively attacking systems they say allow discrimination against minorities. Likewise, DEI is intended to increase representation in universities for groups that have historically faced discrimination by favoring them above “privileged” groups, such as white males.

This kind of thinking has come to be known as “woke.”

At a forum sponsored by The Texan news organization at the end of January, Patrick said the Texas Senate plans legislation to address the “woke” ideology in higher education.

“When you are teaching our students that America is evil, and capitalism is bad ... I’m sorry, that will destroy our country long term,” he said, adding the Senate is planning legislation that would remove that kind of teaching from Texas university campuses.

Patrick said that state Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican who chairs the Education and Higher Education committees, is working on a bill to remove CRT and DEI programs from colleges and universities in the state.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan presides over the Texas House in Austin, Texas, in a July 13, 2021. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan presides over the Texas House in Austin, Texas, in a July 13, 2021. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

In February 2022, in response to CRT bans in Texas and across the nation, the University of Texas (UT) at Austin Faculty Council challenged anyone to stop them from teaching CRT.

The council passed a resolution stating it will stand against any future intrusions on faculty authority by the Texas Legislature or UT System Board of Regents.

Patrick came out swinging after that, saying in a press conference that professors who teach CRT should be fired, and that he intended to introduce legislation to eliminate or alter the tenure system.

It’s unclear what support the measure would have in the Texas House. Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said publicly that doing away with tenure may hinder faculty recruitment.

Once professors have tenure, which is job protection, it is extremely difficult for the faculty members to lose their jobs.

But Patrick thinks the opposite will happen.

Even without the guarantee of tenure, Patrick believes professors would flock to universities that allow freedom of thought.

“I believe that professors will come here knowing that their campuses aren’t controlled by the woke liberal left,” he stated at The Texan forum.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is entering his third term as the state’s top executive, has been mostly silent on the issue of CRT at the collegiate level. He publicly fought to ban it in grades K-12.

Protesters against critical race theory (CRT) being taught in schools rally outside the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va., on June 12, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters against critical race theory (CRT) being taught in schools rally outside the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va., on June 12, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

But on Feb. 8 news broke that Abbott’s chief of staff Gardner Pate had sent a memo to state agency leaders, including universities, that using DEI in hiring was illegal.

The memo, obtained by The Texas Tribune, said DEI has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.

Since divisive policies of CRT gained attention last year at UT Austin, there has been an explosion of DEI initiatives at universities across Texas.

Texas A&M has incorporated DEI requirements for search committees looking to hire new employees, also.

The Texas A&M School of Medicine made headlines recently by removing photos of the predominantly white male graduating class from a display near the entrance to the school as a sign of the college’s commitment to DEI.

During a faculty senate meeting in January, school administrators at the Texas A&M downplayed the incident, saying it happened in 2019 and blamed an employee who no longer works at the university.

Workers remove a statue of Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan from the south mall of the University of Texas in Austin on Aug. 21, 2017. (Stephen Spillman/Reuters)
Workers remove a statue of Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan from the south mall of the University of Texas in Austin on Aug. 21, 2017. (Stephen Spillman/Reuters)

So far, two Texas House bills taking on DEI and CRT, sponsored by Republican Reps. Carl Tepper and Cody Harris, have been filed for this year’s legislative session.

Harris’s House Bill 1607 would take away state funds from universities that teach CRT, similar to past legislation passed to ban CRT in grades K-12.
Tepper’s HB 1046 prohibits using “political tests” such as DEI statements for hiring, promotion, or student admission to public colleges and universities.

“It’s time to restore higher ed in Texas,” Tepper posted on Twitter.

His proposed legislation would ban Texas universities and colleges from using DEI loyalty statements that promote differential treatment of individuals or groups based on race and ethnicity.

But the bills stop short of blocking funding for DEI programs flourishing throughout every college in major universities such as UT Austin, the flagship university of the UT system.

CRT and DEI Flourish Despite Conservative Boards

The proliferation of “woke” ideology taking root in Texas universities happened during Abbott’s tenure, despite his appointment of Republican supporters to university boards.

Appointed regents are responsible for hiring and firing university presidents and football coaches. They approve degree programs, and audit finances.

At UT Austin, conservative professors are rare, said one professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The University of Texas campus in Austin on June 23, 2016. (Jon Herskovitz/Reuters)
The University of Texas campus in Austin on June 23, 2016. (Jon Herskovitz/Reuters)

The UT professor said a law allowing college presidents to fire tenured professors could backfire by eliminating the few conservative professors left on campuses.

That’s because those at the university in charge of hiring believe in the “woke” agenda and will go after the conservative teachers, not those teaching CRT, he said.

DEI has moved into all facets of UT, from required classes to training for staff and faculty, he said.

And professors there attack measures such as the Stop WOKE Act of Florida, signed into law in 2022 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, as an affront to academic freedom.

The Florida law is one of only a few attempts nationwide to curtail CRT in higher education.

What critics fail to acknowledge is that the Stop WOKE Act attempts to stop racial discrimination in the classroom, generally aimed at whites or those with conservative beliefs, he said.
On a campaign stop in rural North Florida on Nov. 3, 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, scorns left-wing ideology, saying "Florida is where 'woke' goes to die." (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)
On a campaign stop in rural North Florida on Nov. 3, 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, scorns left-wing ideology, saying "Florida is where 'woke' goes to die." (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

“It’s like the state is requiring students to repeat certain beliefs that are well outside the mainstream, in exchange for a degree,” the professor  said.

The Texas Legislature is supplying tax money to universities without oversight, allowing universities to teach students to hate the freedom that Texans have traditionally embraced and defended, he said.

“Either put the right people in charge and give them the resources they need to fix things, or just shut the whole thing down,” the professor said. “It makes no sense paying for your political enemies to teach children to hate you.”

Courses Encouraging Hate

Universities often admit students when they’re 18 or even younger, then immerse them in an environment increasingly steeped in racially charged ideology that opposes the idea of American exceptionalism and freedom.

Many required courses at UT unapologetically teach CRT beliefs as fact. These classes help fulfill “flag requirements,” extra coursework needed for undergrads, the professor said.

Flag offerings on Cultural Diversity incorporate the CRT idea of oppressors and examine the world through the lens of race and gender.

In a course titled “Blackness and Mass Incarceration,” at UT the syllabus discusses how the American criminal justice system is “a political tool for white supremacy.” It adds that the course will consider how “the penal system of the early 20th Century extended the racial logic of chattel slavery.”

A virtual image for use at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business that appeared after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an end to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion funding. (Darlene Sanchez/The Epoch Times)
A virtual image for use at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business that appeared after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an end to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion funding. (Darlene Sanchez/The Epoch Times)

The “Latinx Sexualities” class syllabus at UT kicks off with a “land acknowledgment” that Native American tribes once occupied the land where UT Austin’s campus now stands. The course urges students to use “analytical lenses of sexuality and race” to understand the identity formations and “multiple oppressions confronted by Latinx people through their sexualities.”

The UT professor said that many wealthy, conservative parents know CRT is being taught in universities, but they continue to pay for their children to be turned against them, which happens when their children end up rejecting conservative values.

Jackson Paul, editor of UT Austin’s conservative student newspaper, “The Texas Horn,” said there is a lot of cultural pressure on campus to conform to left-wing ideologies.

It’s less prevalent in the sciences or business college, he said.

Conservatives on campus receive pushback when they take a stand on issues, such as signaling they’re “pro-life.”

Students put out signs and pink flags two years ago to memorialize unborn children who were aborted, he said. A couple of hours later, the flags and posters were vandalized.

The student newspaper has featured accounts from students complaining about the politicization of classes.

On May 27, 2022, the publication ran an article by a Chinese student who complained about a “progressive agenda,” another term for socialism.

The student complained that his American Literature class was almost wholly made up of works by racial minorities, immigrants, women, or those identifying as LGBT.

“Schools are not supposed to teach students to become liberal or conservative,” he wrote.

Flags representing LGBT social movements outside the Stonewall Monument in New York on June 7, 2022. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)
Flags representing LGBT social movements outside the Stonewall Monument in New York on June 7, 2022. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Students can avoid some of the “woke” flag classes by carefully looking for alternatives, such as Ancient Greek Philosophy, Paul suggested.

And while conservatives get pushback for speaking up publicly, he said some professors have privately thanked him for offering an alternate opinion.

In Paul’s view, most students on campus don’t agree with the “woke” agenda, but go along with it out of fear of reprisal.

Legislation to curtail CRT and DEI is needed in Texas, but conservative students should speak out more, he said.

“Campus is definitely a very progressive place where you will face potential consequences for speaking out,” he said. “But it’s not as bad as it is in your imagination.”

Darlene McCormick Sanchez is an Epoch Times reporter who covers border security and immigration, election integrity, and Texas politics. Ms. McCormick Sanchez has 20 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including Waco Tribune Herald, Tampa Tribune, and Waterbury Republican-American.
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