SB-17 FAQs - University of Houston
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SB-17 FAQs

On June 14, 2023 Governor Greg Abbott signed into law, Senate Bill 17, “Responsibility of Governing Boards Regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives,” previously passed by the 88th Texas State Legislature. This is codified in Section 51.3525 of the Texas Education Code, “Responsibility of Governing Boards Regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives”) and System Administrative Memorandum 01.D.18 (“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives”) and is effective January 1, 2024.

Beginning with FY 24-25, SB 17 requires the University of Houston System Board of Regents to annually certify our System’s compliance to the Texas Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board during the prior fiscal year, before we may spend state appropriated funds for the then-current fiscal year. Thus, it is critically important that each university of the System ensure the necessary adjustments are implemented to achieve compliance with SB 17. Implementation will be a continually evolving process, and accordingly, we have begun that process to achieve an appropriate state of compliance by January 1, 2024, which is the effective date of SB 17.

Each university of the System, including their respective offices, divisions, and units (academic and administrative) are responsible for ensuring that they achieve compliance with SB 17. Each university of the system must make the administrative changes necessary under the new law while implementing appropriate communication and monitoring practices to support compliance.

To assist in this process the UH System Office of General Counsel (OGC) has created the following FAQs to provide guidance on the implementation of SB 17 in your respective offices, divisions, and units. OGC will be available going forward for questions on implementation efforts.

It is important to remember that nothing in SB 17 alters our existing obligations under federal and state law, including the anti-discrimination requirements of Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We must continue to ensure that our programs and activities are open and available to all persons on a non-discriminatory basis."

Student Organizations

Generally, registered (also called recognized) student organizations' status is not affected by the passage of SB17. The law specifically exempts: an activity of a student organization registered with or recognized by an institution of higher education.

No. SB 17 expressly exempts student organizations from its restrictions. Moreover, Section 51.9315 of the Texas Education Code bars universities from denying a student organization any benefit that is generally available to other student organizations, if the denial is based on the organization’s political, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint or content.

No. A university cannot deny a student organization generally available funding, regardless of its source. Section 51.9315 defines “benefit” as including “funding sources made generally available to student organizations at an institution of higher education.” If state funds are used in a neutral fashion to support other student 6 organizations, the university cannot deny funding to the student organization because of its DEI work. And of course, SB 17 expressly exempts student organizations from its restrictions.

No. SB 17 expressly exempts student organizations from its restrictions as well as short-term speakers. Moreover, Texas Education Code 51.9315 also defines “benefit” to include the use of facilities for meetings or speaking purposes. It also requires only content and viewpoint neutral criteria for approving speakers.

Yes. Identity-driven organizations must be treated the same as non-identity driven organizations. Neutral funding open to all organizations must be made available, as well as access to facilities. Denying neutral funding would violate state and federal law as content or viewpoint discrimination.

Yes, as long as they do not receive special funding/compensation for providing this service that other advisors would not receive for advising non-identity driven organizations.

Yes, as long as they are not given preferential treatment because of their identity components. For example, an engineering program would be compliant with SB 17 if it listed all student organizations that are relevant to engineering students. To deny this neutrally available “benefit” would be in violation of state law governing expressive activity on campus.

Yes. Student Organizations are exempt from the limitations of SB 17. As such, student organizations may host programs and initiatives supporting the LGBTQ community, including programs discussing sexual orientation or gender identity.