Media Contact

Kristi Gross, ACLU of Texas, [email protected]

May 15, 2024

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education held public hearings Tuesday to discuss free speech and antisemitism on college campuses, as well as public universities’ compliance with Senate Bill 17, Texas’ ban on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.

The committee heard from Texans about how recently passed laws are being implemented. It cannot vote or implement any actions, but it can make recommendations for the 89th Legislative Session.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas had three speakers — Caro Achar, Ash Hall, and Andrew Hendrickson — testify at the hearings.

The following statement can be attributed to Caro Achar (she/her), engagement coordinator for free speech at the ACLU of Texas:

“Antisemitism is real, as is Islamophobia, and both are morally reprehensible. Thankfully, universities already have legal obligations to protect students, faculty, and staff from harassment. It is essential that state leaders not conflate the lawful restriction of these behaviors with the unlawful stifling of free speech they don’t like. Texas students of all races, politics, and backgrounds deserve a high-quality education — free from government censorship — that prepares them for their futures.”

The following statement can be attributed to Ash Hall (they/them), policy and advocacy strategist on LGBTQIA+ rights at the ACLU of Texas:

“The only way to address systemic racism and inequality is to build institutional structures that combat them. Dismantling DEI programs does not eradicate injustice, but it does strip away the vital support required to confront it. As students shared during today’s hearings, S.B. 17 undermines the promise of a fair, inclusive, and safe college experience. This law has predictably caused harm to students by threatening the support systems they need to stay in school and graduate.”