Sen. Brandon Creighton, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Sub-Committee, invited seven Texas flagship universities to the Capitol last week to discuss their efforts to combat anti-Semitism and free speech. They were also asked for documented information on what they had done to eradicate “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) programs from taxpayer funded campuses. The academic leaders provided detailed information indicating that DEI offices are closing, people are being fired or re-assigned, forced DEI trainings have stopped and rules requiring a pledge of allegiance to DEI in order to be hired have ended. Whether those changes are sufficient to actually end the stranglehold of DEI on campuses or just window dressing will require continued investigation and monitoring.

But it was the students, not the academic leaders, whose testimony in the second half of the hearing demonstrated how DEI has destroyed serious thinking among many students and faculty on Texas campuses.

About 240 mostly students signed up to testify or present written statements at the hearing and 147 actually spoke. Even though the pro-Palestinian protests at UT made national news, only 47 people signed up to testify about free speech on campus. Thirty-seven of those were from Austin, nine were professional organizers in some capacity and three identified themselves as professors at check-in.

An even smaller group, 22, signed up to testify about anti-Semitism. The majority of the remaining students were there to protest the elimination of DEI programs at the University. A few came from other schools around the state, but 45 of the 72 students who testified were from Austin, including 24 who identified themselves as professional organizers.

The DEI testimonies frequently overlapped with those who were speaking in support of terrorism against Israel, but the message they delivered all drove home a single point — DEI has become deeply embedded in their view of the world and themselves.

Many didn’t seem able to say who they were without describing “what” they were: “I am a (insert racial or ethnic group) who is (insert gender, lack of gender, previous gender or combination of genders) and (insert sexual preference or proclivity).” Because DEI dictates that individualism is racist, they believe racial and gender identity is what defines them.

The majority of those who showed up were women. This is not only because of the ideological gender gap that shows women are 15 times more likely to identify as liberal than men, but also, as Heather MacDonald recently observed in the City Journal, women are more likely to be in majors that provide time and even give extra credit for activism and protests.

But despite what they’d learned in class, more than a few of the women were so overcome with emotion because their DEI advisor was leaving or a DEI program was closing down that they could not hold back their tears. One young woman said the DEI ban had resulted in “the most emotionally exhaustive year of my life.”

Another half-sobbed that she was “ashamed to have graduated from UT” [because police had been brought to campus to end the occupation]. Still another had experienced such “stress and anxiety” since the ending of DEI programs that she “could not wrap her head around the fact that she had graduated.” And, of course, another demanded that the Committee acknowledge that the hearing was being held on land stolen from indigenous people – adding that she had been too “emotionally drained” by the banning of DEI to focus or carry on with her life.

To be sure, not all of the women were overwhelmed. Some were angry, screaming at the Committee in tantrum-like outrage. One woman yelled, “You don’t care about us!” Another screamed that students “couldn’t survive without DEI programs.”

And yet another attacked the Committee with total disdain, explaining that requiring the universities to become “race blind and sex blind denies our identity.” Several attacked the Committee with contempt, with one saying, “get a hobby and stop promoting white supremacy.” Another angrily asked, “What kind of world do you live in?”

The answer to her question is Texas where almost 70% of voters believe that all students at Texas universities “should be treated the same regardless of the race, ethnicity or sexual preference.” The same percentage supported UT’s decision to call in the state police to stop attempts to occupy the campus. Both data points include majorities in every racial and ethnic group.

That world also includes America where 80% of the country supports Israel in the war against Hamas.

The 47 students who came forward to discuss unrest on campus told the Committee they had protested peacefully and had been wrongfully mistreated by a militarized state police.  Although it made national news, the protesters vociferously rejected the fact that outsiders had been involved in planning the protests, ignoring the video footage of Hamas propaganda pamphlets found by school officials at the encampment, including one entitled “Glory to Gaza” that celebrated the death of Jews and made it clear that the eradication of Israel – not a cease fire or a two state solution – is their goal.

A state trooper had reported to the Committee that buckets of softball sized rocks had also been found. Students throughout the hearing vehemently insisted that was a lie and many ended their testimony with the sign-off, “Free Palestine,” said in much the same way you would expect to hear “Hook ‘em Horns.”

Several also argued that using the phrase “From the River to the Sea” was not anti-Semitic, which is particularly rich coming from UT students, where many students have insisted “The Eyes of Texas” is racist because it was written over a hundred years ago during a time of racism and segregation.

Meanwhile, “From the River to the Sea” was chanted by Hamas just seven months ago when the terrorists were killing innocent civilians, raping women, mutilating babies in Israel and advocating for the death of all Jews.

This is an example of some kind of time-space continuum problem that appears in those steeped in DEI. The darkest passages of American history – slavery, Indian removal, segregation – are viewed as contemporary events while the current terrorist war to eradicate the Jewish people either didn’t really happen or is dismissed as somehow irrelevant.

Some analysts have suggested that the students are trying to emulate the anti-war protests of the 1960’s, but the protesters on campuses today are not “Peaceniks.” They are not chanting “Make Love, not War,” they are chanting “Global Intifada!”

In the end, the Senate Higher Education Committee hearing exposed the tragedy of what DEI has done to the minds of young Texans. The students who attended see themselves in terms of their race and gender identity and they see America as a wholly racist and misogynist place. It is ironic that in begging lawmakers to re-instate DEI programs, the students’ testimony made it absolutely clear why the Texas Legislature must completely end DEI on public college campuses. It has warped the thinking of so many students that they seem unable to discern good from evil.


Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the former Senior Advisor to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.