Following consultation with the Office of the General Counsel, this guidance outlines steps campus leaders need to take to ensure that their units comply with certain aspects of Public Chapter 818 relating to mandatory training.
Public Chapter 818 became effective on April 8, 2022. View the Public Chapter.
Section 5 of Public Chapter 818 prohibits all state public institutions of higher education from conducting mandatory training of students or employees if the training includes one or more of the “divisive concepts,” which are defined in Section 3 of Public Chapter 818.
What Training is Covered by Public Chapter 818?
Public Chapter 818 defines “training” to mean “seminars, workshops, trainings, and orientations.”
The university does not interpret the prohibition on mandatory training to include any type of training that:
- Is required as a part of the curriculum of an academic program (e.g., academic courses, academic seminars); or
- Is required for purposes of complying with an academic accreditation requirement
Faculty do not need to modify the content of their academic courses or seminars to comply with the mandatory training prohibitions of Public Chapter 818.
However, Section 4 of Public Chapter 818 prohibits the university, including a faculty member, from penalizing, discriminating against, or imposing any adverse treatment on a student due to the student’s refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to one or more divisive concepts. The legislation recognizes existing legal rights that a student or employee may have but does not create a basis for any new types of legal claims against university employees. Should students have concerns about their experience, the university already has multiple channels for them to share those concerns and have them addressed.
What Trainings are Considered Mandatory for Purposes of Public Chapter 818?
The university interprets Public Chapter 818 to apply to trainings conducted by the university, including training conducted by third parties on behalf of the university. Public Chapter 818 does not define “mandatory,” so the university will interpret that term using its normal, everyday meaning.
Mandatory training includes:
- New student orientations, undergraduate and graduate
- New employee orientations
- Training for undergraduate and graduate student employees, including graduate teaching assistants
- Annual, campus-wide compliance training, including
- Title VI
- Title IX
- Information Technology – Security Awareness Training
- Code of Conduct
- Training that the university requires for employees in particular areas, such as:
- Training for employee search committees (e.g., STRIDE)
- Training for procurement committee members
- Environmental health and safety training
- Institutional Review Board training
- Clery Act training for “campus security authorities”
Ensuring Compliance with Public Chapter 818
Given this new statutory prohibition, academic and administrative leaders are asked take the following actions as soon as possible:
- Identify all mandatory trainings that are conducted for either students or employees (or both);
- For each identified mandatory training, determine whether the training includes, or could be interpreted to include, any of the “divisive concepts” listed in Section 3 of the Public Chapter 818; and
- For each identified mandatory training with divisive concepts, determine whether it is allowed under one of the exceptions noted above (curriculum of an academic program, compliance with academic accreditation requirement).
For any training that is both mandatory and includes divisive concepts, and does not fall within one of the exceptions, please take either of the following actions to come into compliance with Public Chapter 818:
- Convert the training to an optional/recommended training; or
- If you want/need to continue mandating the training, remove any reference(s) to divisive concepts in the training programs or materials.
Questions and Assistance
Please contact Ryan Stinnett or Frank Lancaster in the Office of the General Counsel if you have questions about whether a particular training is covered by Public Chapter 818. They are available to assist you in reviewing training materials, determining whether an exception would apply, and advising on how to bring any mandatory trainings into compliance with the law