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Senate Bill 17 Guidance for Research and Grant Applications

Feb 19, 2024, 17:01 PM by Randall Urban, MD and Toyin Babarinde, PhD
UTMB’s Chief Research Officer, Research Administration, and the SB17 Legal team are here to support research investigators navigating the implications of Senate Bill 17.   While its restrictions outlined below do not apply to “scholarly research or a creative work” by students, faculty, or other research personnel, or dissemination of such, we understand there may be other impacts to your research programs.
We offer the information below in partnership with the Department of Legal Affairs to help you as you consider any potential impacts.
Senate Bill 17, “Responsibility of Governing Boards Regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives,” (SB17) went into effect January 1, 2024, with the intent of prohibiting diversity, equity and inclusion offices and initiatives at public institutions of higher education.  UTMB has taken several actions to ensure compliance with the law. 
The purpose of this specific guidance is to describe the impact SB17 may have on UTMB research and grant applications consistent with and supported by UT System’s SB17 Working Guidance and FAQs.
Exemptions from SB17
The following activities are exempted from the requirements of SB17:
  1. Academic course instruction;
  2. Scholarly research or creative work or the dissemination thereof;
    1. “Scholarly research” may include research conducted by, or the systematic inquiries of, a student, faculty, or research personnel in their respective field under generally accepted scientific standards (e.g., systems in place to ensure the quality and accuracy of hypotheses, methods, data, and findings, such as in a peer reviewed or refereed publication). Grant applications to support scholarly research that are submitted by an institution’s students, faculty, or other research personnel are part of the research process and within this exception to SB 17’s prohibitions.
    2. “Creative work” may include academic work product of an innovative or interpretive nature and may also include non-research written material created for publication and grant submissions seeking funding for research, instructional, or other activities.
    3. Programmatic components directly related to and part of the scholarly research or creative work and proposed in a grant submission are not subject to the SB 17 prohibitions.
  3. An activity of a student organization;
  4. Guest speakers or performers on short-term engagements;
  5. A policy, practice, procedure, program, or activity to enhance student academic achievement or postgraduate outcomes that is designed and implemented without regard to race, sex, color, or ethnicity;
  6. Data collection; or
  7. Student recruitment or admissions. 
All of the above activities that may be part of a UTMB faculty, staff or student’s scholarly research, creative work, or as integrated within a grant application are exempt from the SB17 requirements.  However, it should be noted that UTMB is not permitted to circumvent SB 17’s prohibitions against conducting the duties of a DEI Office by using a statutory exception to accomplish those prohibited duties.
In addition, for the purposes of applying for a grant or soliciting a sponsored research project, institutions are NOT prohibited from submitting to the grantor or sponsor, a statement that:
  1. Highlights the institution’s work in supporting:
    1. first-generation college students, low-income students, or underserved student populations; or
  2. Certifies compliance with state and federal antidiscrimination laws.
It is important to consider the above exemptions for any grant applications or related scholarly activities and seek additional information/guidance from SB17 itself or the UT System Working guidance and FAQs referenced above.
Other Project or Program Considerations:
Prohibited Activities Outside of the Project / Grant Application Period:
Any research program or grant application sustainability statement involving otherwise “DEI” prohibited activities should be accurately described or limited.  The exemptions noted above may be limited to the scope of work/active project of a grant application.  After expiration or termination of such scope of work/project, continuation of programs/activities may no longer fall under the stated exemption and may need to be discontinued. 
Please know that UTMB leadership will continue to work within the law to ensure a welcoming and nurturing environment for all.
For additional questions or guidance please contact the Office of Strategic Research Development ( and/or Legal Affairs (