The Texas Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education held a hearing on April 6 to hear testimony on Senate Bill 17 and efforts to eliminate DEI initiatives in the state’s institutions of higher learning. Renown pediatric neurosurgeon and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson provided testimony in support of the bill, and he had some wise words for the committee members.
Dr. Carson voiced his concerns about medical schools that are engaging in “the rejection of colorblind standardized testing” in the name of equity, failing to set a minimum MCAT score or GPA, and withdrawing from national ranking systems. “Putting aside merit, and instead emphasizing qualities like race, sex, religion, and all the others we hear about endlessly today,” he stated, “can very well cost people their lives when it comes to the medical field.”
“This ubiquitous DEI virus,” Dr. Carson said, “has a chilling effect on free speech and open inquiry.” He warned of “the power of even the mere accusation of racism,” and how false allegations can have severe consequences to the person being accused. “Senate Bill 17 is a great step toward rejecting the entire framework of DEI and restoring us to a country our founding fathers envisioned so many years ago,” he concluded.
State Senator Brandon Creighton, SB 17’s sponsor, explained that the bill’s goal was to end mandatory diversity statements and DEI-related training in Texas universities, and he noted how several schools have already started to close their DEI offices and departments.
Senator Royce West responded with his concerns for “throwing out” DEI and “dismantling the entire program,” insisting that “it has begun to work” and any problems are isolated incidents that can be dealt with on an individual basis. “There will be us that will stand up and say, ‘It’s wrong.’ It’s totally wrong, what’s getting ready to happen in this legislative process,” he said.
Senator Creighton noted that the committee was “here to vet” the narratives and “root out any inefficiencies” in programs that are receiving millions of taxpayer dollars.
When it came time to pose questions to the panelists, Senator West reiterated his concerns about abandoning DEI and starting over with a different approach. “We’ve been dealing with the same issues” regarding DEI and universities saying that they are “hamstrung” by Supreme Court or federal court decisions. “Here we are tonight,” he said, “dealing with the same issues again, and we don’t have the results.” He asked Dr. Carson, “What do we do?”
“We need solutions; not names,” Dr. Carson replied. He recounted an experience he had in medical school when he had performed poorly on a set of comprehensive tests and was told by a university counselor that he “wasn’t cut out to be a doctor.” After much thought and contemplation, he discovered that the problem was simply a matter of preferred learning style, and he adjusted his method of study. “It wasn’t a problem with me intellectually,” he said, advising that “a variety of different mechanisms are needed on an individual level. “Those are the kinds of things we need to be looking at, rather than trying to artificially fit people into other people’s molds.”
Another senator asked Dr. Carson about instances in which some DEI programs are presented as “not required,” but failure to participate can affect an individual’s ability to receive promotions. “DEI is heavy-handed,” Dr. Carson responded. “The reason why I say ‘wipe the slate clean’ is because the atmosphere has been poisoned by what has happened already.” The impact DEI’s role in medical school curriculum and hiring “[has] been disturbing” and “creates an atmosphere” that does not support differences of opinion and constructive discourse on sensitive topics. “The only thing that can really destroy us is division,” Dr. Carson concluded.
Senate Bill 17 contains essential measures that Texas medical schools would be required to honor to ensure that faculty, staff, and students are not mandated to subscribe to DEI principles and programs that do not deliver what they promise. Valuing diversity at the expense of merit creates conditions in which “all aspects of society will suffer,” Dr. Carson told the committee. With Senate Bill 17, lawmakers are taking action that will ultimately protect Texans by refocusing medical education programs onto what matters most: Developing doctors with the knowledge and skills to provide safe, individualized patient care.
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