Texas Rising and Partners March to Texas Capitol Ahead of Hearing on Implementation of New Anti-DEI Law

Texas Rising and partners led a march from UT Austin to the Capitol ahead of a hearing on the implementation of SB 17, an anti-DEI bill.

Photos from the march can be found here, credit: CCR Studios

May 14, 2024

Emily Witt (she/hers), [email protected]

AUSTIN, TX – ​​Texas Rising, Texas Students for DEI (TXS4DEI), Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), students, and faculty groups today led a march that began at the University of Texas in Austin and ended at the Texas Capitol ahead of a Texas State Senate Higher Education Subcommittee hearing on Senate Bill 17 and its implementation.

Enacted by the Texas Legislature last year, the bill bans diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices and programs in the state’s public colleges and universities. Students, staff, and faculty will testify about its impact on LGBTQIA+, Black, and brown communities on campuses across Texas.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to helping students from historically underrepresented communities be embraced, supported, and safe on college campuses. Since SB 17’s passage, campus administrations have chosen to over-comply with the law and become political pawns for the Texas government, laying off vital staff and shutting down entire offices on campuses across the state,” said Mel LeBlanc (they/them), Texas Rising Central Texas Regional Program Coordinator. “DEI deserves to be celebrated, free of politics. Our goal in testifying against SB 17’s implementation was to encourage legislators to stop fear-mongering universities into over-compliance, which has been extremely harmful to Texas universities. We hope the storytelling and anger of our amazing students, university staff, and partners will help stop attacks on DEI on college campuses.”

“Texas Students for DEI, representing a diverse group of students across the state, is affected by our universities’ over-compliance with SB 17 due to the vagueness of the law. This has led to staff and faculty layoffs, along with the loss of resources and funding for student groups. Despite this, our coalition persists in supporting our communities — students, faculty, and staff,” said Sameeha Rizvi, UT Austin, Texas Students for DEI. “We urge those opposed to the disastrous effects caused by the over-compliance to join us in testifying.” 

“Public testimony made it clear last session, and it will be made clear again in public testimony today that the lieutenant governor’s priorities do not reflect the priorities of most Texans. In Texas, we celebrate diversity, we celebrate peaceful free expression, and we reject hate and antisemitism,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT President. “At a hearing in which state leaders could address the real crises facing higher education – like unaffordable tuition costs, inadequate state funding, and stagnant wages for educators – The Texas Senate has chosen to divert the committee’s focus to divisive, politicized issues that help no one. Laws like SB 17 are turning Texan against Texan – to the detriment of our state’s colleges and universities.”

“The implementation of SB 17 risks stifling the knowledge, creativity, and growth that a diverse community provides when students and faculty see themselves reflected in their educational institutions. Efforts to comply with this law have the grave potential of chilling topics related to race, gender identity and sexual orientation that are necessary in an inclusive and equitable higher education experience,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel, Legal Defense Fund. “Leaders of these public colleges and universities must understand that Texas law does not absolve them of their duty to comply with federal civil rights law and the U.S. Constitution. All Texas public colleges and universities must provide an educational experience that does not discriminate on the basis of race and sex.”


Texas Rising, a project of the Texas Freedom Network, builds the power of a rising generation of young Texans, emphasizing communities of color, by advocating for change in the cities and towns where they live and at the ballot box. To learn more, visit txrising.org.

Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note: LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.

Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Texas Students for DEI (TXS4DEI) educates, empowers, and uplifts undergraduate and graduate students at all Texas colleges and universities by telling the stories of those positively impacted by Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion policies while centering critical thinking, academic freedom, and mutual aid.