Business school entangled in ‘bathroom bill’ debate

The Bill Munday School of Business

The Bill Munday School of Business has found itself in the middle of what is one of the most contentious bills pending in the Texas Legislature: Senate Bill 6, informally known as the “bathroom bill.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Texas) has made this bill a priority, arguing it will protect privacy and safety by requiring transgender people to use bathrooms based on biological sex in government buildings and public schools and universities.

Opponents of the bill believe that it will harm the state’s economy, citing a similar bill that passed last year in North Carolina. This cost the state several events and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, including the recent NBA All-Star Game, which was relocated to New Orleans.

The business school came under fire after lobbyist group Texas Association of Business (TAB) published a study conducted by St. Edward’s graduate students and faculty that stated Texas could lose up to $8.5 billion in GDP if SB 6 were passed.

Several groups, including the all-Republican Texas Freedom Caucus, denounced the study as “bogus,” calling on TAB to “stop efforts to block women’s privacy bill.”

A Politifact article called the findings of the study “mostly false.” Politifact defines “mostly false” as: the statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

The dean of the business school Nancy Schreiber responded in a letter to Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Texas), stating that the research project “was not intended to be, and should not have been used as, the platform for a political advocacy campaign.”

According to the letter, the 2015 economic impact study was intended to provide a learning opportunity for students. TAB’s President Chris Wallace said that he stands by the university’s findings.

The Politifact article took issue with the study’s numbers and methods, but Wallace said several experts and economists “liked the findings and were very supportive of how they were derived.”

“They’re very bright and capable students,” Wallace said. “They were very proud of their work as they should be.”

Wallace added that “benchmarking” figures would be difficult because it is a relatively new issue on the national and state level, but maintained that the bathroom bill would have negative consequences regardless.

“There will be detrimental economic impact if SB 6 were to move forward,” Wallace said.

The university’s Director of Communications Mischelle Diaz confirmed via email that TAB had the right to use the study based on the contract between the university and the association.

“There was no violation of terms,” Diaz wrote. “There is a difference of opinion about how the study was represented and how it was positioned to the media. It was student research and the university will not participate in defending the student research.”

Schreiber referred Hilltop Views to Diaz, who declined to comment further, saying that the dean’s letter would function as the university’s “official statement on the issue.”