Sherry Sylvester

9th Street And Congress

What is DEI, really?

The Texas Senate just passed Senate Bill 17, which will require Texas colleges and universities to close their offices dedicated to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” (DEI).

Senate Bill 17 will also prohibit universities from requiring applicants for teaching and administrative jobs to provide a so-called “diversity statement” that is free of any offensive words like, “merit” and “color-blind.” It also prohibits mandatory DEI training.

Senator Brandon Creighton’s, R-Conroe, leadership on this legislation – a priority for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is that DEI offices at Texas colleges and universities, like DEI offices nationally, rarely provide any information on what they actually do.

The truth is buried deep in the website of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. They describe their mission as “engaging in ongoing ways to incorporate alternative narratives in the curriculum and provide robust learning opportunities on the history of racism, colonization, and conquest on how higher education and other sectors of society have been complicit in maintaining systems of privilege.”

DEI officers are working to ensure that every administrator, every faculty member and every student believes these “alternative narratives” which include the notion that America was really founded in 1619 when the first African Americans arrived in Virginia, and that the American Revolution and the Texas Revolution were fought to maintain slavery. The Pilgrims didn’t colonize America for religious liberty, they came here to conquer the native tribes, just like Columbus did two hundred years before. There’s no end to these “alternative narratives,” some of which are linked to a part of our history and some of which are pure fabrications.

Underlying these “alternative narratives” is the bedrock belief of DEI that racism is not an individual act of evil, it is a structural system, geared toward preserving white supremacy.

Higher education is part of this systemic racism, according to DEI’s assessment. So is free-market capitalism, America’s legal system rooted in English common law, medicine, virtually everything American, including our values of achievement, hard-work, equality and independence.

According to DEI, the system is rigged and DEI officers say to “mitigate racism,” they must dismantle all those systems and overthrow those values.

That’s why an applicant for a biology professor job at Texas Tech was disqualified when he said he treated all his students equally. Equality is not a DEI value. Equality under the law, the principle that undergirds all our civil rights legislation, has been replaced in DEI by equity, which is about redistributing resources. That’s why many conservatives draw a direct line from DEI to Marxism.

The bottom line is that DEI advocates believe all white Americans are racist, whether they know it or not. Many non-white Americans can be unconsciously racist too, if they buy into “white values” like hard work, self-reliance and even being on time. Following a schedule, according to DEI advocates, is a white thing.

Viewing the world through that DEI prism creates a new standard of inequality. Students are either privileged perpetrators of white supremacy or victims of it. That’s what DEI teaches.

Texas has a dark history of racism – slavery, brutal reconstruction, the violence of the Jim Crow era and segregation. Every Texas public school student is taught that history so that we will never forget those awful times.

But Texas also has a history of breaking down barriers, especially when it comes to our public schools and universities. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups across the state last year and we found that African Americans and Hispanics do not think of themselves as victims; they think of themselves as Texans. They identify with Texas values of independence and freedom. Those who arrive at Texas universities are proud Texans – perhaps until they are hit with DEI ideology everywhere they turn, insisting that somehow the system is rigged and there’s no way they can win.

That’s why few were surprised by the Texas A&M survey that showed that in 2015, 82% of African Americans felt they belonged at the university. By 2019, after four years of DEI programs, only 55% felt they belonged.

A Baylor University study conducted in 2018 found that having a DEI program at a university had no impact on increasing minority faculty hiring. There’s no evidence that DEI helps increase successful college outcomes for minority and women students, either. And we have almost daily examples of how DEI stifles free speech, with a Stanford Law School dean’s shouting down of a federal judge being the most recent example.

Texas is not the only place where DEI is being scrutinized, and not just by conservatives. Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Cambridge held a debate entitled “Should DEI be Abolished?” Even those who were defending DEI said it had “gone off the rails.”

Texas college and university budgets and websites reveal that hundreds of DEI officers are employed at Texas institutions of higher learning and Texas taxpayers are spending millions to keep those offices open. The Texas Senate was absolutely right to vote to shut them down. The Texas House and other states should follow their lead.

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

9th Street And Congress

Drag Shows ARE Blackface

When Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, blocked a drag show performance on his campus, likening it to blackface,  he was excoriated by the organized LBGTQ+ community, which launched a petition calling it a “gross and abhorrent comparison of two completely different topics. It claimed Wendler was using an “incorrect definition of drag as a culture and form of performance art.”

But Wendler is right. Drag shows are essentially the same as blackface. It’s not even a close call. Here’s how the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture describes blackface:

“Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.”

Change blackness to womanhood and you have a precise definition of drag—”comedic performances of women by men in exaggerated costumes and make-up…” The only difference is that most thinking people have long recognized that blackface is the essence of racism and hate. As the Smithsonian notes, it “cannot be separated from racial derision and stereotyping at its core.” Similarly, drag shows are all about misogyny and utter contempt for women.

It is inexplicable that there is so little outrage about the obvious and vicious sexism that emanates from drag queens and drag performances, but as the Dallas Morning News reports, drag shows have become part of the mainstream, popular culture.

Ignoring the hateful and belittling stereotypes of women presented by drag queens—catty, bitchy, dumb and obsessed with sex—Nancy Pelosi, the first woman ever to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House, appeared as a guest on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” where she praised the men for the “joy and beauty you bring into the world.”

Both blackface and drag trace their roots to Shakespeare. Women were forbidden to act in Elizabethan times, but many believe Shakespeare’s hand-written stage directions, “DRAG,” indicated “dressed as a girl.” But nothing in Shakespeare’s works indicates a disdain for women. Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Viola and Cordelia weren’t stereotypes, even though they were played by men. And Shakespeare’s masterful Othello, played by white actors in blackface until modern times, reveals that he understood the evil and pain of racism.

Even using the standards of “presentism” that is so popular among the left, it is hard to see how Shakespeare’s endorsement would count much for blackface or drag. He lived in a time when slavery was not particularly controversial, and witches were still being burned.

Blackface migrated to America and took hold in the 1830s.  Jim Crow was a blackface character. According to the Smithsonian, minstrel shows including troupes of white actors performing as black people became popular after the Civil War and continued until relatively recently. They note that “The Black​ and White Minstrel Show” was a popular British television show until the late 1970s. It ended after the Civil Rights movement in the United States heightened awareness about racism.

If, as the students at WTAMU insist, banning drag shows is an offense to gay and lesbian people, perhaps there is a parallel in the fact that the so-called “King of Blackface,” Al Jolson, was lauded for his musical talent throughout his career. Knowing the racism and damage that was done, it is unimaginable today, but some African Americans believed Jolson brought black music to the theatre at a time when blacks were not allowed to appear on stage.

One of the ugliest things about blackface is that it perpetuated the most violent racism in America by pushing racial stereotypes that black men were stupid with enormous sexual appetites. Alleging rape was one of the most common motivations for lynching, and blackface played a huge role in pushing that myth.

Drag pushes similar sexual stereotypes about women including overdone facial makeup—massive brows, lips and lashes, exaggerated breasts and wildly gyrating sexual movements that suggest voracious sexual appetites.

That’s one reason Dr. Wendler is right when he says there’s no such thing as a harmless drag show and why Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler, should be lauded for Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1608, which restrict drag shows to adult audiences and keep them out of public libraries.

Hopefully the “RuPaul Drag Race All Stars” will go the way of the “Black and White Minstrel Show” as the public finally realizes drag shows have nothing to do with gay rights. They are all about hate—and a particularly vicious kind of sexism.

9th Street And Congress

A Good Time to ‘Pause’ DEI at UT

The University of Texas Board of Regents just made a very good decision to “pause any new DEI policies on our campuses.” Texas Tech, the University of Houston and Texas A&M also say they are working to end DEI on their campuses.  In making the announcement, University of Texas Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife also said he has asked for a report on current DEI policies across all campuses.

DEI, the acronym for the so-called diversity, equity and inclusion policies, has become a driving force on many Texas campuses, including UT, through a vast administrative network that controls hiring and promotions. It also employs aggressive strategies that infuse DEI into curriculum.

DEI’s advocates relentlessly insist that their goal is minority recruitment or fair treatment, but that is just the cover story. As the National Association Scholars noted in a report on UT earlier this year, “a large bureaucracy devoted to advancing the vague goals of DEI” is evident throughout the university.

Eltife clearly states the difference, noting that UT welcomes “welcomes, celebrates and strives for diversity on our campuses in our student and faculty population…”

But he notes DEI has become something else:

“I also think it’s fair to say that in recent times, certain DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that, rightfully so, has raised the concerns of our policymakers about those efforts on campuses across our entire state.”

To understand the difference between ensuring that Texas college campuses are comprised of students and staff that reflect the broad diversity of our state and the pernicious goals DEI, it is important to examine exactly what the DEI ideology is and how it operates in the academic space.

DEI is rooted in critical race theory (CRT) and the new gender ideologies. Over the last couple decades, DEI has morphed both theories beyond being just left-wing ideas into structured operating systems.

The template for the fall schedule at UT’s McCombs School of Business demonstrates the result. It includes a content warning section that some of the business courses may be offensive or result in curriculum induced trauma. It is not clear exactly what kind of “trauma” could result from Econ 101, but thanks to DEI, UT is standing by and prepared.

The McCombs Business School template also includes a ridiculous “land acknowledgement” to be read before every class and event. It goes like this:

“We acknowledge that we are meeting on the Idigenous [sic] lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now North America.” They must also affirm: “I would like to acknowledge that Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and all the American and Indigenous Peoples who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories of Texas.”

Besides being a guilt inducing virtue signal, suggesting that we are somehow on stolen land, this statement is, like the 1619 Project, simply bad history. .Among other things, this fails to note the fact that the Spanish were actually in Texas before several of these tribes so perhaps Carlos III de Bourbon, His Most Catholic Majesty should also be on this list.

Most professors don’t complain about these things because they are required to provide a “diversity statement” before they can even be considered for a job at UT. The statement must include proof of adherence to the ideology of DEI. Candidates are excluded if they use words like merit, color-blind or even equality.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pointed out recently that this is against the law. His office reminded universities and state agencies that hiring cannot be based on factors other than merit. Civil rights laws protect everyone from being discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity or, in the case of DEI, because of what they believe.

Eltife and the Board of Regents should carefully read the DEI reports he gets back from faculty and staff at UT. They must separate genuine efforts to increase minority recruitment from the ideological agenda of maintaining the DEI infrastructure in campus climate and curriculum. They should also ask other groups to send them reports—traditional faculty and students who want an atmosphere of open inquiry and learning who are often shut out by UT’s DEI regime.

The regents also need to hear what they have to say.


Abbott Versus DEI: Not on Texas Campuses

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office just sent out a memo to Texas colleges, universities and state agencies reminding them that they must follow civil rights laws and ensure that all hiring decisions are based solely on merit.

Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Gardner Pate, explains in the memo that “…the innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others.”

Last month, the National Association of Scholars released an extensive report on DEI at the University of Texas revealing how employment of faculty and staff there is now linked to left-wing political goals. Shortly after that, a freedom of information report obtained by Do No Harm revealed that Texas A&M Medical School had, among other things, removed photographs of white male graduates to further its DEI goals. And this week the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed detailing the way DEI is used at Texas Tech to screen out job applicants who do not accept DEI dogma.

Immediately, the Texas media launched a disinformation campaign.

The Texas Tribune screamed:  Governor Greg Abbott tells state agencies to stop considering diversity in hiring

Most of the state’s electronic media regurgitated the Texas Tribune report as if it were fact, reporting that DEI is about eliminating discrimination and ensuring fair treatment.

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express news reported that Abbott was going after diversity hiring programs while the Dallas Morning News digital headline proclaimed: Abbott declares it illegal to consider diversity in employment. Their editorial board fired off an odd piece the next day—Governor Abbott’s Big DEI Mistake insisting that, although Abbott is right about ideological litmus tests, what is going on at Texas institutions of higher education is surely “well-intentioned” because hiring diverse employees is a good thing.

They are wrong. DEI is not “well-intentioned,” and it is not about diversity hiring or fair treatment.  DEI is about dictating how people think. The job candidate evaluations at Texas Tech revealed that applicants were downgraded for using the wrong pronoun or saying they respected and treated all students the same—which is not allowed. Another applicant was chastised for not knowing the difference between equity and equality.

Clearly, the Texas media is also confused about the difference between equality and Equity. Equality is the belief that everyone must have access to life, liberty, education, jobs and the tools to reach for the American dream. The civil rights laws of the 1960s referred to in the memo from Gov. Abbott’s office are built on the principle of equality. Title IX laws, which give women equal access to higher education, are also about equality.

Equity calls for equal outcomes—we must all end up at the same place. According to the principles of DEI, the fact that I played basketball in high school but never really had a shot at the NBA means there’s equality in sports, but not equity. DEI disdains equality. It is all about equity.

Diversity is a word that DEI also distorts. Diversity has always been used to define a community whose members have a broad range of backgrounds, like Texas, where 29 million people speak 160 languages, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Tagalog being the most common. Our state was founded and continues to be built by a very diverse population of Hispanics, Anglos, African Americans, Native Americans, Germans, Central Americans and others who flock daily to our state. Texas reflects all those voices.

But diversity, as it is taught in Texas colleges and universities, means dividing everyone into groups of either oppressors or victims as defined by critical race theory. Oppressors are people who have benefited from the racism and white supremacy that DEI proponents believe is the foundation for America. Victims are those who are suffering from the white supremacy that in their view, still drives every aspect of our cultural, political and economic lives.

In addition to critical race theory, DEI advocates also espouse “gender theory,” insisting that gender is not binary and the fact that children are “assigned a gender at birth” is an arbitrary action perpetuated by the white patriarchy. Every child, they insist, should be allowed to choose their own gender.

Wrap this all up with disinformation about “inclusion” and you can see why Governor Abbott’s memo was necessary. Texas colleges and universities are giving preferential hiring treatment (inclusion) to those who believe our country is driven by racism, white supremacy and a binary gender patriarchy. Everyone else, especially those who espouse principles like merit, initiative, color-blindness and equality fall into the “white supremacist” category. They are excluded.

DEI also suppresses dissent and free speech, something the media usually cares about, but in this case, clearly not. Fifty-seven percent of Texas college students report that they censor themselves when talking to other students, professors or administrators because they are fearful of reprisal. Ironically, at the same time, over 70% of Texas college students oppose allowing a critic of Black Lives Matter to speak on their campus because DEI teaches intolerance of views that don’t comply with the dogma.

This week Senate Finance Committee Chair, Joan Huffman, R-Houston warned university officials that DEI will not be tolerated at Texas colleges and universities.  She warned the taxpayer-funded institutions that the state’s budget appropriators are watching.

Texans oppose both DEI and CRT and will support Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature continuing to move forward to get rid of it in Texas. They have learned to ignore the disinformation coming from the Texas media.

9th Street And Congress

Looking Behind the Screaming Headlines

The Texas Tribune began its coverage of the 88th Session this year with a news report screaming that “LGBTQ Texans Ready for Legislative Session as GOP lawmakers target them in dozens of bills.”

The Tribune warns that many LGBTQ people say they are leaving Texas because of the GOP “assault” on their rights.

If LGBTQ people are leaving Texas, they are the only ones. Every data source from the Census Bureau to U-Haul repeatedly shows that Texas is the state most people around the country are moving to, not from.

Newsweek reports that Texas has the second highest LGBTQ population in America, although other sources have radically different numbers. But no source shows an exodus of gay people from the state.

There’s also not much evidence of LGBTQ targeting in bills filed so far in the legislature session—at least no L, G and B. Several legislators have written bills that would prohibit the parents of children suffering from gender dysphoria from allowing their children to have irreversible surgeries including castrations and mastectomies or giving them puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. Those children might grow up to be “T” people, although the data indicates the most of them won’t.

The division between the LG&B and the so-called “trans” agenda (T) has long been debated in the gay rights movement—and is starting to gain traction. Many believe that the two groups have conflicting missions. Gay people want to be accepted for the men and women that they are. Trans advocates don’t believe that sex is binary and are demanding acknowledgement for being someone other than who they are.

This poses a huge problem for a group like Equality Texas, the source of the alarm in the Texas Tribune’s “LGBTQ attack” story. Equality Texas says it is the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ in Texas and it must rally its troops, but if you look at its bill tracker, their agenda is all about the “T.”

Looking at the bills they are fighting, here’s what we must assume that they support:

  • No restrictions on sex change surgery for children, which they call “lifesaving” and a “best [medical] practice.” No restrictions on cross-sex hormones and puberty blocking drugs.
  • All health care providers should be forced to provide sex change surgery to children whether they believe in them or not.
  • Insurance companies should be required to pay for sex change operations for children.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction using nudity and descriptions of sex.
  • Men should be allowed to play in women’s sports in Texas colleges and universities.

Equality Texas describes commonsense policies on these issues as a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

The use of the term “lifesaving” to describe sex change operations and puberty blockers is deceptive. Researchers have known for some time that gender dysphoria does not put teens at greater risk of suicide than teens suffering from many other mental health risk factors including depression and anorexia. We also know that cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers don’t save lives but actually adversely affects mental health, which can increase suicide risk. So does sex change therapy, which has been repeatedly shown to not be as effective as psychotherapy in treating gender dysphoria in children and adolescents.

The bottom line is that the Equality Texas’ bill tracker makes it clear that it opposes all efforts to affirm the right of parents to raise their children. Several Texas legislators have put forward a constitutional amendment to “enshrine the right to direct the upbringing of their child, including the right to direct the care, custody, control, education, moral and religious training and the medical care of the child.”

Equality Texas opposes the constitutional amendment proposal as another “threat” to the LGBTQ community. Their bill tracker also shows their opposition to legislation that:

  • Allows doctors to refuse to do sex change surgeries.
  • Requires parents to be informed about all activities and materials used in their child’s classroom.
  • Requires teachers to notify parents of changes in a student’s physical, mental or emotional health.
  • Requires book publishers that provide books to schools to label them with a content rating, like movies do.
  • Requires parents to provide consent for all non-textbook instruction involving violence, nudity, profanity, illegal substance use or sexual content.
  • Requires “drag shows,” where men dress up like women and dance provocatively, to be defined as “sexually oriented” businesses.

Their opposition to school materials and library books is telling. Anyone who doubts whether parents should be monitoring them more closely in our public schools should take a look at the bestselling “Gender Queer,” which has been found in dozens of Texas school libraries. It’s clearly inappropriate for kids.

As for men playing women’s sports, broad majorities of Texans and Americans continue to oppose it. Women sports advocates won that battle in Texas in the last legislative session for high schools and legislation to protect women’s sports in colleges and universities has been proposed this session.

Finally, defining “drag shows” as “sexually oriented” businesses would hopefully make it clear that they do not belong in public schools or public libraries, regardless of what a couple of City Council members in Dallas think.

Large majorities of Americans believe that parents should be able to direct their children’s lives—particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like sexuality—without being overridden by public schools. Equality Texas disagrees and it is trying to convince Texans that to think otherwise is somehow a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

Some Texans have religious convictions regarding gay people, which was reflected in the recent Republican State Convention platform plank, but in this heavily libertarian state most Texans are “live and let live.” The majority support gay marriage. But no thinking Texan supports allowing a child to determine whether they get a sex change operation or take puberty blockers, whether pornography and drag shows should be allowed in public schools and whether men and boys should be allowed to play in women and girls sports.

To overcome that broad consensus of common sense, Equality Texas and other LGBTQ advocates must convince the LG&B community that they are under attack even though they are not. That’s why we can expect more screaming headlines this session.


What Would Gavin Newsom Do? It’s Time to Stop DEI on Campus

It has been observed that if California Gov. Gavin Newsom learned that the University of California system included professors and staff who persistently engaged in pushing free-market, merit-based achievement, and pro-capitalism messages, he would shut them down immediately. If he found out that the administrations of state colleges and universities were almost exclusively made up of individuals whose only job is to promulgate theories of American exceptionalism, he would not hesitate to fire them all.

So how is it that state universities in Republican states like Texas persist in allowing taxpayer-funded universities and colleges to continue their war against the principles and ideals of entrepreneurialism and traditional values that have made our country great and Texas prosper? Left-wing thinking and crazy “woke” notions on race and gender are now the norm on virtually every Texas university campus. Students who have a different opinion are censored and, consequently, are too often afraid to speak up. Conservative professors are in constant fear of being identified and exiled.

At the University of Texas and most other Texas institutions, every teaching or administrative job applicant must provide what is known as a “diversity statement” explaining what they have done personally to further “diversity” in their professional career.

Diversity, along with equity and inclusion, are deeply rooted American values that embody our founding belief that all people are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, in the woke world of college campuses, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have been twisted into code for an anti-American mindset based on the belief that racism and inequality dominate every aspect of American life including our commerce and culture and certainly the university.

Job applicants on Texas campuses must explain what steps they have taken and will take to make the university “anti-racist.” Job killing climate change policies and wealth redistribution are included under this required anti-racist, anti-American rubric. Guides on writing “diversity statements” warn applicants that saying “I treat all students equally” will be counted against them.

Requiring “diversity statements” means that every applicant must sign a statement affirming their commitment to left-wing Marxist ideology in order to get a job at a Texas college or university.

At Texas A&M University, fully 46 administrators, including deans with six-figure salaries, have the words DEI in their title. The University of Texas and Texas Tech have roughly the same number of DEI administrators. Their job is to ensure that DEI is the framework for all curriculum and programming, keeping campus culture and environment firmly ensconced on the far left fringe. Leadership, merit, personal achievement and discipline are de-emphasized and discredited.

Students learn about identity politics and multi-culturalism with no freedom to challenge the concepts. They are taught to believe that all inequities in America are part of the legacy of slavery and cannot be overcome with on-going efforts to ensure equal access to opportunity. The DEI regime rejects historic civil rights laws and Title IX designed to protect everyone from discrimination, insisting instead on exclusionary efforts in hiring and student recruitment that ignore achievement in favor of preferences based exclusively on factors like race, ethnicity and gender.

When you wonder how the environment on Texas campuses got so far off track, DEI and other left-wing ideologies on college campuses are the answer—and they continue to do it all with funding from Texas taxpayers.

Even more importantly, these colleges and universities also train public school teachers, which is how these distorted ideas, including critical race theory, made it into public school curriculums.

Wokeism has existed for decades on college campuses, but it has now become ubiquitous in every aspect of American life. The root source of wokeism is academia. It must be shut down and to do so will require a comprehensive strategy on several fronts. The accreditation cabal, which insulates campuses against public feedback and change must be drastically reformed. All DEI offices on the campuses of state colleges and universities must be closed and the use of left-wing litmus tests like diversity statements must be stopped. DEI training must also be strictly prohibited.

Instead, our universities must aim to be truly inclusive ensuring that every Texas student can pursue their dreams. Discrimination against any faculty member or student based on their point of view must end. University boards must challenge faculty councils and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom and open inquiry. Legislators (and taxpayers) must hold them accountable when they fail.

While a number of leaders of Texas colleges and universities support these reforms, the woke infrastructure anchored in faculty governance will fight back at every turn. In 2016, the Tennessee Legislature ended DEI at the University of Tennessee—the reforms lasted for about a year. The academic leadership rolled over the new state laws as if they hadn’t passed.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick affirmed earlier this week that he is committed to challenging the forces at Texas academic institutions who suppress freedom of speech and intellectual diversity. It’s time for every Texas legislator to stand up to entrenched DEI and wokeism on Texas college and university campuses. When it comes to higher education, Texas lawmakers need to ask themselves, if the situation were reversed at California colleges, “what would Gavin Newsom do?”

9th Street And Congress

O’Rourke’s Anti-Texas Debate

It makes absolutely no sense for the media to be in charge of political debates in Texas or anywhere else. They don’t even pretend to be neutral players anymore. They are on the liberal Democrat side. 

Which makes it all the more telling, now that the only Texas gubernatorial debate is over, that almost none of the media’s post-debate analysts named Beto O’Rourke the winner. What is amusing is that media analysts can’t seem to understand how, after literally years of biased and dishonest coverage of Texas conservative leadership in general and Gov. Greg Abbott in particular, O’Rourke managed to lose a debate against a man they demonize and misrepresent every day. 

With the media in charge, the debate questions on Friday night all leaned in O’Rourke’s favor. There were no questions about the Texas energy policy and how O’Rourke’s support for the Green New Deal would cost millions of jobs and devastate the Texas oil and gas industry. 

There were also no questions about parental rights and school choice which Abbott and a majority of Texans support and O’Rourke opposes. Instead, the media’s education questions were focused on the issues teachers’ unions care about—more money for schools and more pay for teachers and retirees. Student outcomes took a back seat to whether the New York City mayor had actually contacted Abbott’s office about busing migrants there.   

And, of course, they didn’t ask O’Rourke to define what a woman is or if he thinks boys should be allowed to play girl’s sports.

Still, O’Rourke’s prospects seemed good going into the debate.  Polls show 54% of Texans think the state is going in the wrong direction. Texas has had a very difficult couple years, which include the pandemic, a horrifying mass shooting followed by an inexplicable failure to respond by law enforcement, a deadly freeze that paralyzed us and a Supreme Court decision on abortion that has divided Texans.  

O’Rourke clearly went into the debate thinking he would blame Greg Abbott for all that. Using his entitled, rich kid persona, he ignored the rules and launched flailing attacks that repeatedly fell flat. The old suggestions by a previously star-struck media that O’Rourke is, somehow, the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy are laughable after his debate performance.

O’Rourke attacks repeatedly noted that Abbott has been in charge for the last eight years—he clearly thought it was a killer punch.  

But he doesn’t understand Texans. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups last year asking Texans across the state what they believe about the Lone Star State. We learned that Texans, regardless of race or ethnicity and even most Democrats, are proud of being Texans because, they said, Texas is a state that does things right. 

They listed things like the state’s low cost of living, no income tax, available jobs and reasonable regulations—all results of conservative pro-Texas policies moved forward by Abbott.

No recent pollster has asked Texans if they believe the last eight years would have been better if Democrats were in charge, but if they did, I am confident the answer would be a resounding no. Right next to the right track/wrong track number on most polling results is the disapproval rating for Democrat President Joe Biden, which stands at close to 60% in Texas. Only 37% of Texans approve of his performance and even members of his own party don’t want him to run again. At the same time, a majority of Texans approve of Abbott.  

O’Rourke missed the fact that while Texans believe the state is going in the wrong direction, they don’t blame Abbott. Instead, polls have shown again and again, that Texans’ most urgent concern is the crisis at the border and the 2.1 million people who have crossed illegally since President Biden has been in office. Texans support Abbott’s border policies.

A basic rule of politics is to never believe your own press, but O’Rourke doesn’t seem to realize that virtually all the Texas mainstream media is his press. That’s probably why he misjudged his rude and condescending attacks on the governor and crossed the line of good Texas manners. He thought he could badmouth Abbott because he thinks Texans believe the daily mainstream media headlines screaming that Texas is a backward state whose conservative policies have left it in shambles. But most Texans don’t buy that. It doesn’t ring true with the reality of their lives.   

Republicans finally took control of all three branches of Texas government in 2003, and now, after a generation of reversing the liberal policies of high taxes, intrusive regulation and trial-lawyer packed courts, conservative principles are part of the Texas DNA, right next to liberty and freedom.

If someone is going to overthrow the state’s top conservative leader, he or she will need to be a genuine Texan who understands that the Lone Star State became the country’s top job creator and the top destination for Americans moving from other states because of conservative policies that have rebuilt our state after almost 100 years of Democrat rule. 

O’Rourke showed he doesn’t understand that hard-working Texans know how the economy works because they can see the difference in Texas and blue states around the country. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be putting a higher statewide minimum wage at the top of his platform. Texas voters would never support a plan that would kill both jobs and businesses.    

The media is saying that Abbott stacked the deck by only agreeing to one debate, but Texans saw all they needed to see on Friday night. O’Rourke demonstrated he’s not in tune with the priorities Texans care about. Hopefully, we are seeing his last run for public office.


Texas still one of the best places to live and work, even if left-wing CNBC stacks the deck

CNBC used to stand for the “Consumer News and Business Channel.” but it is now part of NBC and the left-wing media.  Its job now is to demonize conservative states, especially Texas, as dismal backwaters filled with miserable, uninformed and misguided voters.

But because CNBC is still a business channel, focused on the economy, the workforce and markets, trash-talking the Lone Star State is very difficult to do.

Year after year, the data has forced CNBC to acknowledge that Texas is the best place in the country to do business—or at least one of the best—on their annual “Best States for Business” ranking.  Since they started keeping score in 2007, Texas is the only state to have ranked No. 1 four times.

It was ranked No. 2 eight times and until this year it has never been ranked lower than No. 4. In 2022, CNBC ranked Texas No. 5.  The network also decided to change the way they trumpeted its list. Instead of focusing on the business metrics—workforce, infrastructure, strength of the economy and the cost of doing business—it pumped up its previously described “quality of life” metrics to include “inclusion” and pushed out a new list of 10 states it called “the Best Places to Live” in America.

It’s not exactly clear exactly what metrics they used to determine the “Best Places to Live,” but among other things, they looked at crime rates and “inclusiveness in state laws, including protections against discrimination of all kinds, as well as voting rights.”  Adding crime rates made it impossible for California to climb above a No. 29 overall ranking, but on CNBC’s new woke “inclusiveness” scale Texas ranks No. 49—allowing CNBC to pronounce Texas as one of the worst places to live in the country.

The “best state to live in,” according to their new measure is Vermont, followed by Maine, Hawaii and North Dakota. CNBC’s “inclusiveness” list is clearly designed to give blue states a chance to dig out from the bottom. Washington and New Jersey are also in the top 10 “best states to live” list even though New Jersey, had the highest percentage of people moving out of any state in 2021 and Forbes included Washington on their list of states people are fleeing because of the high cost of living.

In Texas, we all know that when the left says “protections against discrimination of all kinds” they mean that boys are allowed to play on girls sports teams and parents have the right to experiment on their children with risky puberty blockers, hormonal therapy and even surgery. As for voting rights, CNBC apparently didn’t see the poll conducted by the Texas Association of Business before the most recent election reforms which confirmed that Texans of all races and political parties overwhelming support our election laws. Fully 95% of Texans say it’s easy to vote here.

You have to wonder how folks sitting around the conference table at CNBC deal with the fact that their own data shows that the state they have declared the worst place to live in America is where so many Americans want to live. Over a thousand people move here every day. Last year CNBC reported that Houston was number one on the list of top 10 cities people are moving too. San Antonio, Dallas and Austin were also on the list.  Texas was the only state with more than one city on the list.

Texas also just beat out two big blue nation states, New York and California, for the most Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.

And at the end of June, CNBC reported a better than expected jobs report that showed 372,000 workers added to payrolls nationwide.  Their news story did not point out that 82,500 of those jobs—22%—were in Texas, which created more jobs than any other state.

Woke businesses pushing boycotts against Texas haven’t convinced people that Texas isn’t a great place to live, and CNBC is not likely to be successful by stacking the deck on the “Best States to Live” list either.

In 2021, the Houston Chronicle predicted the state would lose $31 billion and 223,000 jobs if they passed proposed election reforms. The reforms passed, voter turnout broke records and the economy continues to soar.

California has banned travel for state workers and universities to Texas, and a couple of dozen other states, because of Texas laws supporting women’s sports and privacy. Since it first passed that law, the number of states on its list has almost doubled and even some major California newspapers are urging them to repeal the ban since it is obviously making no difference.

By contrast, Texas has become a mecca for business and innovation. That is no accident. The conservative policies passed by Texans over the last several decades create jobs, help business flourish and ensure that the state continues to effectively compete in the global economy. The CNBC annual rankings that consistently put Texas at the top show how well this is working for Texans and the world. CNBC should not only report that Texas is at the top, it should also report why.


Red McCombs Should Demand His Money Back

It has been said that Texas is the best expression of the American idea—and Red McCombs is one of the best expressions of everything it means to be a Texan. He came from a tiny town in the southern panhandle, started as an Edsel salesman in Corpus Christi and went onto become one of the richest men in the world. McCombs has been enormously generous in so many ways throughout his life—a gift to the Lone Star State that keeps on giving.

An advertising genius who, literally, invented product placement, McCombs’ business successes have contributed to Texas’ growth and economic prosperity in a dozen different ways. In my hometown of San Antonio, he is known for bringing NBA basketball to our city with the Spurs. The key for him in his first professional sports venture was understanding the importance of television in moving San Antonio onto a national stage.

When the movie “The Alamo” was being filmed in 1960 at Bracketville, McCombs sought out John Wayne and got him to agree to open the film in San Antonio, pulling the klieg lights and red carpet out of Hollywood and into downtown San Antonio again, putting Texas on the map.

McCombs also brought Formula 1 racing to the United States after he learned that over 1 billion people watched those races. The possibilities of a billion viewers around the globe all looking at Texas motivated him to make sure the “Circuit of the Americas” was located here.

McCombs has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to all kinds of charities in Texas including the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In 2000, he contributed $50 million dollars to establish the Red McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, a gift which leveraged an additional $100 million to ensure that the state that has repeatedly been identified over the past two decades as the best state for business anywhere in America has a first-class business school.

Knowing what McCombs has done for the state and for the University of Texas, you can imagine how outrageous it was to see that when the template for the fall schedule at the McCombs School was released this week it included a warning for students that some business topics may be “traumatic.” Professors must promise to give their students a heads up if some really scary business topic is about to be discussed.

Are they kidding? Anyone who knows Red McCombs knows he is not afraid of anything.

There are also directions requiring every professor to “identify their pronouns (she/he/they/zhe).”


They seem to be serious. There is an entire section on “personal pronoun preference.”

Farther down in the syllabus template, professors are directed to let their students know that they “acknowledge that we are meeting on the Idigenous [sic] lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now North America.” They must also affirm: “I would like to acknowledge that Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and all the American and Indigenous Peoples who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories of Texas.”

The Comanche arrived in Texas after the Spanish, so why aren’t those great minds over at the prestigious “40 Acres” acknowledging that they are on the lands of Carlos III de Bourbon, His Most Catholic Majesty and King of Spain? And the “Turtle Island” reference is nonsense. It’s a creation story from native tribes in the Northeast, not Texas.

The point is, why aren’t professors at the McCombs School of Business required to inform their students that if it weren’t for Red McCombs, they wouldn’t have a building, desks or, indeed, a business school?

Furthermore, McCombs School of Business students should know that McCombs is one of those Texas giants who understood from the beginning that Texas—now the best reflection of the American idea—is not an accident. It has been and continues to be a hard-fought battle to maintain a state where freedom and liberty are harnessed to ensure businesses are free to innovate to create jobs and prosperity for all. McCombs never walked away from that fight.

Texas universities are on very shaky grounds these days. Enrollment is plummeting because students are no longer willing to pay outrageous tuition to have a steady diet of “pronoun protocols” and “land acknowledgements” shoved down their throats. They have also had it with the constant drum beat of so-called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI), which actually means exclusion, injustice and essentially a stacked deck for anyone who does not genuflect to the woke ideology that is destroying our colleges.

Other states are fighting back. Florida passed a “Stop Woke” Individual Freedom law designed to eliminate these kinds of ridiculous and divisive antics on campus and to affirm the principles of actual equality, merit and hard work. It requires that students be reminded that in America, we work together to overcome challenges and hardships—we don’t band together to blame others for them.

The University of Texas needs to wake up before somebody shows this syllabus to Red McCombs—and he demands his money back.

9th Street And Congress

The Big Lie in Houston – and the Big Truth

What an ugly irony that the Houston Chronicle—which may be the most out-of-touch and Texas-hating newspaper of the metropolitan big five—has just won a Pulitzer Prize for a series they called “The Big Lie.” 

Predictably, the left-wing Pulitzer crowd is lauding a series written by four editorial writers that they say “reveals voter suppression tactics…” in the Texas election reforms that were adopted in the 2021 legislative session. Like the New York Times’ repeatedly debunked 1619 Project, the Chronicle’s “Big Lie” insists that election politics in Texas has been rooted in racism since reconstruction. It demonizes Republicans and insists efforts to increase transparency and public trust in elections is all a ruse. The editorials claim:

 “[Election] Integrity is no more the goal for them than it was for the white primary associations of the 1900s. Only today’s voter fraud warriors have laser pointers.” 

The series mostly forgets that it was Democrats who established those “white primary associations” at the turn of the century, while the Republican Party was the party of reform, primarily comprised of African-American Texans. 

The Houston Chronicle editorial writers rail against requiring a photo ID in order to vote, a Texas law that passed in 2011, as well as what they describe as the refusal of the state lawmakers to allow voting “innovations” like 24-hour and drive-in voting. 

The Pulitzer committee apparently didn’t bother to fact check the series, or they would have learned that it wasn’t just Republicans who support requiring a photo voter ID in order to vote—nearly 85% of all Texans support it, including Democrats. 

As for the charge of “voter suppression,” a Texas Association of Business poll (TAB) conducted in 2021 during the election reform debate found that fully 95% of Texans surveyed—again, that is people from both parties—say it is “easy” to vote in Texas elections.   

And there’s no voter suppression. Since photo voter ID has passed in Texas, there have been record breaking voter turnouts in both presidential and gubernatorial year elections. 

Voter turnout in Texas increased 40% in the 2020 presidential election and 76% in the 2018 gubernatorial election. In 2012, 58% of registered Texans voted and in 2020, almost 67% voted. 

The news hook for the “Big Lie” editorial series were blaring headlines in Texas and nationwide that 12% of Texas mail-in ballots had been rejected in the March primary election. Always looking for ways to demonize Texas, almost none of the news stories on mail-in ballots in the primary reported that those ballots, which required verified identification of either a driver’s license or a social security number, included only about 1% of the total ballots cast in the election. Since it’s not clear how many of those voters went on to vote in-person anyway, like Willie Nelson, the percentage could be even smaller.

But actual numbers didn’t distract the Houston Chronicle’s writers from pushing their ugly theory that racism motivated Texas Republican leaders, who they charge with manipulating Republican voters into believing that protections against voter fraud were needed. It apparently didn’t matter to them that it isn’t just Republicans who want election security—Democrats support it too. The TAB poll also found 85% of Texans in both political parties believe mail-in ballots should require the same identification as in-person voting. Voter fraud in mail-in balloting has never been a secret in Texas, even among Democrats.   
In 2007, when photo voter ID was first being debated, Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a leading Democrat leader from Dallas, spoke against expanding photo voter ID, by using the argument that where real reform was needed was in ballot by mail: He said: “…vote by mail that we know is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state…” requires no identification. 

Still, the story of the 12% mail-in ballot rejection moved forward in both the state and national press unchallenged by any reporter. However, a new poll from RMG Research suggests that even people outside Texas didn’t really buy it. In early May, when asked about the 12% of mail-in ballots that were rejected in Texas, RMG found, predictably, that a third believed what they’d heard in the media, but a larger number—almost 40 percent—believed the rejected ballots indicated that there had been more voter fraud in the past and the new rules were finally able to catch it. 

A Pulitzer fact check would have revealed another “big lie” in the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie.” Before election reforms were passed in 2021 the Chronicle wrote that the “state stands to lose more than $31 billion in economic activity and 223,000 jobs by 2025…” because of backlash over the legislation. In fact, Texas, which was among the first states to recover from the pandemic, lost no money and zero jobs because of the election reforms. 

This piece is riddled with many snide little lies, too, and ignores how Texans feel about the Texas House Democrats who shut down the Texas House and flew to Washington, D.C. to protest the election reforms bill. A Texas Public Policy Foundation poll showed that Texans opposed the walkout by a 2-to-1 margin.

Far from being an award-winner, the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie” series is just one more in what has become a staple of the Texas press. Texans are portrayed as gullible rubes at best—if not evil, calculating racists. The media doesn’t seem able to accept that conservatives don’t win elections in Texas because of rigged election rules; over the past two decades, conservatives have won with whatever rules were on the books. 

Texans elect conservatives because they share their principles and they like their ideas. They also win because Texas liberals haven’t had a good idea in at least two decades. That’s the Big Truth! 

Sherry Sylvester, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is a political communications and public policy expert who has directed multi-million dollar statewide campaigns in New York, New Jersey and Texas. Campaigns and Elections Magazine has called her a “respected veteran” of hard-fought elections and in 2005, her alma mater, the Graduate School of Political Management, now at George Washington University in Washington D.C., named her “alumni of the year,” for her accomplishments in the field of professional politics. Early in her career Sherry worked as the Communications Director for U.S. Senate candidate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman ever nominated for Vice President on a major party ticket. She also worked for David Dinkins, the first African-American to be elected Mayor of New York City. In Texas, she served for over a decade as the spokesperson and a strategic advisor to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the most successful tort reform organization in the nation. She was a member of the original campaign and transition teams of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and she managed his 2018 re-election campaign. She served for seven years as Senior Advisor to the Lt. Governor.