Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

College clarifies SB 17 compliance

Dallas College continues to navigate its compliance with Senate Bill 17, which banned the formation and use of diversity, equity and inclusion offices in all Texas institutions of higher education. 

In anticipation of SB 17 becoming law, the Dallas College Office of the General Counsel released a guidance statement, written by the Dallas College Legal Department with the assistance of legal colleagues from other public colleges and universities throughout Texas, to all students, staff and faculty on Oct. 30. The statement can be found on Dallas College’s website.

Many minor tweaks have already been made to college sites as a result of SB 17. 

There is no longer an LGBTQ students page. Much of the content formerly hosted on that page has been dispersed throughout other sections of the site. For example, all college events related to LGBTQ students can now be found under the banner of Pride Month, regardless of whether the events actually take place in June. 

Similarly, information and forms for students to change their legal or preferred name and gender marker are located within the Legal Notices page. 

Many more examples of these relocations and rewordings can be seen across Dallas College’s sites, such as Sharepoint, eCampus and eConnect.

In a Dec. 23 email to The Courier Liz Scruggs, associate deputy chief of communication, said the college was working to address all areas of policy which could be considered DEI. Scruggs said, “That work continues and, for the most part, has involved limited changes to wording and context used to avoid inadvertent noncompliance with the law.”

Scruggs said the Human Resources Department was in the process of reviewing employee positions and duties which were found to be in noncompliance with SB 17. Scruggs said, “Dallas College has provided new opportunities to employees identified to be impacted by the law that align with their expertise and fulfill a need for the college to ensure we have no employees engaged in activities prohibited by SB 17.”

In a followup email in February, Scruggs confirmed the college was in compliance with SB 17 by the Jan. 1 deadline.

One area which required evaluation is identity-based employee resource groups. Student groups, such as Registered Student Organizations, are exempt from the law. 

SB 17 prohibits any institution of higher education from providing “preferential treatment” or “special treatment” on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin or sex. SB 17 does not define either term. “Dallas College has chosen to interpret them as a term, condition, opportunity or privilege that is unavailable, or substantially better than what is available, or provided to others.” Scruggs said, “These groups always have been, and will continue to be, open to all.” 

Scruggs also said employees who join an ERG will not receive any privileges not available to those not participating in a group.

As is the case with student organizations, data collection and other areas, SB 17 does not generally apply to academic course instruction, scholarly research or creative work, although some clarification on the subject was still provided by the college. 

According to the college’s SB 17 FAQ, professors may still ask students for their preferred name/pronouns. Scruggs said, “A professor may, on their own syllabus, use a statement relating to DEI if it pertains to academic course instruction.” Scruggs said these statements must not indicate any intention by the professor to treat a student differently based on their preferred name/pronouns.

Scruggs said: “SB 17 is a complex bill, which prohibits and constraints certain activities, but does not prohibit all activities that are important and fundamental to Dallas College’s commitment to attracting, supporting and retaining exceptionally talented staff, faculty and students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and fostering and celebrating diversity across our community.”

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