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UT-Austin defunds all DEI programs, reportedly fires 60 DEI employees

The University of Texas at Austin announced Tuesday that is is defunding all of its DEI programming to comply with a law passed in 2023 that bans diversity, equity and inclusion offices at the state’s public colleges and universities.

The university will close it Division of Campus and Community Engagement and will redistribute any remaining programs that do not fall under DEI, such as disability services, to other departments, President Jay Hartzell announced in an email Tuesday afternoon to faculty, students and staff.

“Additionally, funding used to support DEI across campus prior to SB 17’s effective date will be redeployed to support teaching and research,” Hartzell said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix.

“As part of this reallocation, associate or assistant deans who were formerly focused on DEI will return to their full-time faculty positions. The positions that provided support for those associate and assistant deans and a small number of staff roles across campus that were formerly focused on DEI will no longer be funded.”

“I recognize that strong feelings have surrounded SB 17 from the beginning and will shape many Longhorns’ perceptions of these measures,” the president added. “It is important that we respect the perspectives and experiences of our fellow Longhorns as the changes we are announcing today take effect.”

The Austin-American Statesman reported on Tuesday that “the University of Texas has laid off at least 60 staff members who previously worked in diversity, equity and inclusion-related positions, according to three people with knowledge of the terminations.”

“UT has not confirmed to the American-Statesman the number of staff positions that have been eliminated or how many employees will be laid off, but on Tuesday afternoon, a person with knowledge of the terminations said at least 60 people have lost their jobs, 40 of them in the Division of Campus and Community Engagement alone,” the newspaper added. “The layoffs are effective in 90 days or more, people familiar with the terminations told the Statesman.”

The law at the crux of this development states in part that an “institution of higher education may not establish or maintain a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or hire or assign an employee of the institution, or contract with a third party, to perform the duties of a diversity, equity, and inclusion office.”

Exceptions spelled out include “academic course instruction,” “research or creative works by an institution of higher education’s students or faculty,” and activities by student groups, as The College Fix previously reported.

The new law also bans “ideological oaths,” or DEI statements, for hiring and enrollment.

The Texas Tribune reported that the “AAUP and NAACP said they had ‘heightened concerns’ about the layoffs because many of the employees who were fired had been recently reassigned to positions not related to DEI. The groups’ letter said they will ‘continue to accumulate information to address what we believe to be potential attacks on First Amendment Freedoms.'”

“The layoffs come as Texas colleges face increasing pressure to prove their compliance with SB 17,” the Tribune added. “Last week, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said in a letter to university leaders that colleges could lose millions in state funding if they fail to comply with the law. Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott said more laws will be passed next legislative session to make sure schools are enforcing the DEI ban.”

MORE: Gov. Abbott signs law abolishing DEI offices at Texas colleges, universities

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.