A public university in Texas has reworked its diversity, equity and inclusion office ahead of a law that takes effect Jan. 1 banning DEI offices at public universities in the state.
The University of Texas at San Antonio has closed its Office of Inclusive Excellence and is opening the Office of Campus and Community Belonging with the same staff due to the new law, President Taylor Eighmy announced in a recent campuswide email.
“As you know, Senate Bill 17 goes into effect on January 1, 2024 and charges college and university governing boards with ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion offices are not maintained or upheld,” Eighmy wrote.
“…Importantly, the individuals who previously served in the Office of Inclusive Excellence will now have new roles with updated responsibilities to support the Office of Campus and Community Belonging’s purpose, goals and services.”
The university’s media relations department did not respond to requests for comment this month from The College Fix asking whether the shift is in some ways a rebrand to skirt the law.
Signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, SB 17 states 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.”
The agenda for the new UTSA belonging office is “ADA & Accessibility, Campus Climate, and Community Partnership Bridges,” Eighmy wrote, providing few details on the campus climate portion of the office other than to state it will “take a proactive approach to maintaining a welcoming environment to enhance the student, staff and faculty experience.”
Thomas Lindsay with the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The College Fix he hopes universities will abide by the DEI restrictions.
“I would be shocked and dismayed were they to seek to circumvent the DEI bans,” Lindsay said via email this month.
But others are not so sure.
At UT-Austin, the formerly titled “Outreach & Inclusion” director in the university’s business school was relabeled “Outreach & Scholarships,” screenshots show. The word “inclusion” was deleted to appear compliant with a new state law that bans DEI offices, argued one professor who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
“The UT-Austin administration has no intention of truly complying with SB 17,” the professor told The College Fix shortly after the law was signed. “They will use whatever loopholes they can find to continue as much of the objectionable programming as possible, especially by hiding such programs as ‘teaching’ and ‘research,’ which were carved out as exceptions.”
As for UT-San Antonio’s new “belonging” office, at least one student enrolled at the school scoffed at the notion that campus leaders will work toward making conservative students feel like they belong.
Nathan Marin, a 19-year-old finance major at the university and member of its Turning Point USA club, told The College Fix in an interview that while left-leaning student groups get campuswide announcements and the school mascot promoting their events, the conservative students get no such support.
“There’s a double standard,” he said. “[Campus leaders] are only aligning themselves with one side.”
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