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UT Dallas closes new ‘support’ office to comply with DEI ban

Established 1 day after closing DEI office, university says new office wasn’t just rebranding

The University of Texas at Dallas just closed a new office to comply with a state ban on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programming after opening it a few months ago to adhere to the law.

The public university launched the Office of Campus Resources and Support on Jan. 1, one day after shuttering its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in response to the DEI ban.

At the time, UT Dallas said the new office was created to comply with the law, and it was not just a rebrand, web archives show.

But now, the new office is gone, too.

It closed April 30 “as a result” of continued efforts to comply with Senate Bill 17, university President Richard Benson said in a statement shared with The College Fix.

The law, which has led to similar closures at other Texas universities, prohibits DEI programs at public higher education institutions and the use of “race, sex, color, or ethnicity” as factors in hiring practices.

However, some universities have appeared to comply with the state law by simply renaming their DEI offices.

Brittany Magelssen, university communications director, declined to answer The Fix’s questions about the school’s efforts to ensure there are no DEI offices or staff, its hiring practices, and the reaction to the closure from students on campus. She pointed to The Fix to Benson’s statement.

Magelssen also did not respond to two follow-up requests for comment this week asking for more information about the closure and the university’s response to those who say it looks as if the newly closed office was just the DEI office renamed.

In his statement, Benson said administrators decided to close the four-month-old office as they continue to “evaluate our SB 17 response and how to realign many of the programs impacted by the legislation.”

Benson said about 20 jobs will be eliminated. He also said the decision “will not be welcomed by many in our campus community” and he will continue to ensure that UT Dallas is a “supportive community.”

Not just the DEI office ‘renamed,’ university says

On its website, the university said it created the Office of Campus Resources and Support “to ensure UT Dallas can continue to meet the needs of our campus community in a manner that is fully compliant with SB 17,” according to web archives. The webpage recently was removed.

The office “is entirely separate and new” and “will lead activities that are SB 17 compliant,” it stated, adding it is not just the DEI office “renamed.”

According to web archives, the university stated it was still working to determine “the entire scope” of the new office, but its “mission will include enhancing student community-building and supporting employees and employee resource groups.”

One of the office’s projects was to help “facilitate opportunities to foster a welcoming university climate through professional development, employee engagement, and student and employee success initiatives,” according to web archives.

Steve McGuire, a fellow at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said the closure means the university administration finally “rightly recognized” how they must comply with the law.

“The Texas law does not simply call for a superficial reshuffling of offices and employees but a real commitment to ending programs that discriminate or give preferential treatment on the basis of identity characteristics,” he told The Fix in an email Monday.

He pointed The Fix to a series of statements Benson made last year about the DEI ban.

Along with promising no one would lose their job, Benson told the Dallas Morning News at the time: “We’re going to continue doing those things. And so it’ll go under a different name. But I don’t think anyone would have a problem with the actual actions of what we do.”

DEI offices can’t ‘claim privilege of academic freedom’

McGuire also outlined a series of problems with university DEI programs.

He said, “DEI offices are not classrooms,” they are administrative offices that “cannot claim the privilege of academic freedom.”

McGuire, whose organization promotes academic freedom, said DEI offices “often violate these principles” by “advancing viewpoint discrimination with institutional support and sponsoring trainings and programs that expect participants to accept that individuals are inherently oppressed or oppressors based on group membership.”

While public universities need to welcome all students, he said “DEI offices and programs often work against this standard.” He pointed to the use of DEI in hiring, which leads to the exclusion of certain views.

He said the money saved by closing DEI offices could be redirected to better purposes, such as need-based scholarships for students who otherwise could not afford to go to college.

McGuire said nondiscrimination also should extend to “intellectual and ideological nondiscrimination.” He said “if universities cannot guarantee free expression and intellectual diversity on their own, then others, including legislators, need to make that happen.”

Other Texas universities also have eliminated their DEI programs as a result of the law, The Fix previously reported. The University of Texas at Austin recently canceled its special graduation celebrations for black, Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQIA+ students as well.

MORE: Georgia universities rebrand, rename diversity efforts in wake of new anti-DEI regulations

IMAGE: University of Texas at Dallas/Facebook

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Erin Van Natta is a student at Liberty University where she is studying journalism. She is a columnist for the Lone Conservative.