The University of Texas laid off dozens of employees because of the state DEI ban

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A university in Texas has begun massive staff layoffs months after a statewide ban on diversity, equity and inclusion programs in public colleges took effect.
The University of Texas has not confirmed to the Statesman the number of staff positions that have been eliminated or how many employees will be laid off.
University officials at seven other University of Texas campuses did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about whether they had taken or planned to take similar action.
Nowhere have DEI programs been more jeopardized than Florida and Texas.
In Texas, SB 17 bans DEI offices, initiatives and employees from fulfilling those functions at Texas public universities and colleges.
From December until this week, Hartzell did not address the university community about the school’s continued efforts to comply with SB 17.
On Tuesday when he announced the Division of Campus and Community Engagement was shutting down.
As a first-generation student, Macias said, the Community Engagement Division has been an important resource for her.

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Many staff layoffs have started at a Texas university, months after the state’s ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in public colleges went into effect.

State Sen. Republican Brandon Creighton forewarned administrators of the Texas university system last week about the state’s requirements for higher education institutions to abide by Senate Bill 17, an anti-DEI law that became operative in January. According to two sources who verified the terminations to the USA TODAY Network affiliate Austin American-Statesman, the University of Texas at Austin has now let go of at least 60 employees who held DEI-related positions.

The move represents a further development in the growing campaign of criticism directed towards higher education initiatives that assist underprivileged populations. Anti-DEI laws in red states like Texas and Florida have closed safe spaces for LGBTQ students in the last year, raising concerns that faculty and students may relocate to more progressive states.

The Statesman has not received confirmation from the University of Texas regarding the number of staff positions that have been eliminated or the number of employees who will be laid off. However, on Tuesday afternoon, at least 60 people lost their jobs, 40 of them in the Division of Campus and Community Engagement alone, according to one of the people with knowledge of the terminations. According to people familiar with the terminations, the layoffs will take effect in at least 90 days. Since they were not permitted to discuss the terminations in public, the individuals spoke under the condition of anonymity. A Statesman request for comment from UT was not answered.

The Division of Campus and Community Engagement at UT Austin, formerly the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, is also closing. Though the school made adjustments prior to January, President Jay Hartzell stated in an email to the UT community on Tuesday afternoon that was obtained by the Statesman. First, in accordance with SB 17, “We were aware that further work would be necessary to make the best use of our talent and resources to support our teaching and research missions, and ultimately, our students. “.”.

More:What UT lost with SB 17: American-Statesman’s guide to changes due to Texas’ anti-DEI law.

“As a result of the new law, certain long-standing programs that support students, faculty, and staff have become redundant and have a broader scope,” Hartzell complained. “After those reviews, we came to the conclusion that more steps were needed to cut down on overlaps, simplify portfolios for students, and maximize and reallocate resources to our core missions of teaching and research. “.”.

The remaining programs, according to Hartzell, will be divided up among other departments. “Support teaching and research” will now receive funding that was previously allocated to DEI initiatives, according to him. Nonetheless, there will be student assistance available for the remainder of the semester.

“There will be no more funding for the positions that supported those associate and assistant deans, as well as a few staff positions on campus that were previously dedicated to DEI,” Hartzell stated.

Further: Texas professors and students discuss the DEI ban, calling it “exhausting,” “confusing,” and “unprecedented.”.

In his email, Hartzell further stated that “staff members whose positions are being eliminated will have the opportunity to apply and be considered for existing open positions at the University, and resources will be made available to support them.” The Division of Student Affairs will also make efforts to guarantee that positions for student workers and student-facing support continue for the remainder of the semester. “.

The number and types of programs and positions that have been eliminated have not been made clear by the university. Requests for comment on whether they had taken or intended to take similar action were not answered by university officials on seven other University of Texas campuses on Wednesday.

Campus DEI: Nationwide attacks persist.

In their recent approach to higher education policy, conservatives have made diversity, equity, and inclusion programs the object of their contempt.

Since 2023, over 80 DEI-related bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, mostly with the intention of dismantling these programs, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Of those bills, about two dozen have either passed into law or received final legislative approval.

Florida and Texas are the two states where DEI programs are most in danger. Strict laws prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for recruitment or training specifically designed to support the success of underrepresented groups on college campuses were signed into law by the Republican governors of both states.

Why are modifications that are impacted by SB 17 still being made?

SB 17 forbids DEI offices, initiatives, and staff from carrying out their duties at public universities and colleges in Texas. “This letter should serve as notice that this practice is unacceptable,” Creighton wrote in a letter dated March 26 to the chancellors and boards of regents of the university system. He expressed disappointment that some colleges might be complying by simply changing office names and titles. He cautioned administrators that if they do not fully comply with SB 17, lawmakers may pursue legal action and even freeze state funding for their institutions.

“This bill requires a fundamental shift in the way our higher education institutions operate, and is recognized as the strongest DEI prohibition in the country,” Creighton wrote in his letter.

A UT department chair, who spoke to the Statesman under pseudonymity since they were not permitted to publicly discuss the terminations, said that their dean called them on Tuesday morning to let them know that one of the department’s employees would be let go. As part of the school’s compliance with SB 17, the chair stated that the employee had previously worked in a role related to DEI but had been reassigned to a new position and duties.

The Daily Texan, the campus newspaper, was informed on Tuesday by a sophomore employee who also works in the dean’s office that she found out about the layoffs through a friend.

Taizon Walker told the Daily Texan, “We had an event today, so I texted my boss and said, ‘Hello, where in the Union are we meeting?'”. “Today we have dissolved our employment,” she declared. “.”.

Prior to the anti-DEI law, Hartzell gave the community the assurance that the school would uphold its legal obligations while still providing support to all students. Hartzell did not address the university community regarding the school’s ongoing efforts to comply with SB 17 from December until this week. When he declared the Division of Campus and Community Engagement would be closing on Tuesday.

“You are depriving people of life-saving services.”.

The announcement of staff members losing their jobs and the Division of Campus and Community Engagement (formerly Diversity and Community Engagement Division) closing is “disgusting,” according to UT Austin senior Bibi Macias. Macias is a first-generation college student involved in student organizations previously housed in the now-closed Multicultural Engagement Center. “.

Macias stated, “My feelings about it are so devastating and heartbreaking that words can’t express.”. “You are robbing people of services that could save lives. “.

According to Macias, who is a first-generation student, the Community Engagement Division has been a valuable resource. Students’ comfort and experience on campus, according to her, were significantly impacted by its support. She is concerned about the staff, though, as they have given their all to help the students.

Macias declared, “They’re interfering with people’s lives.”.

The university has closed programs like Monarch, which assisted undocumented students with financial aid, internships, and school applications, and closed the Multicultural Engagement Center, which acted as a “home away from home” for students of multiple multicultural identities and was open to everyone. Students and professors have accused UT of overreaching the law. They contend that SB 17 and the university’s adherence to it are having a chilling effect on hiring and retention because Macias is worried about how it will impact the graduation rates of underrepresented student groups.

The Legislature’s efforts to prevent “woke” policies, or identity politics, at higher education institutions, according to some conservative lawmakers, are not yet complete. These lawmakers have applauded the termination of DEI programs at universities and colleges.

In the weeks and months preceding SB 17’s Jan. implementation, UT, like all public universities, underwent significant changes. One date of effectiveness. The Women’s Community Center would take the place of the Gender and Sexuality Center at UT, which announced in December that it would now focus on gender-related issues instead of LGBTQ+ ones.

In an email to the campus community in December, LaToya Smith, vice president of campus and community engagement, explained the division’s changes. “With its depth, breadth and extraordinary expertise, the Division of Campus and Community Engagement will continue to distinguish UT Austin as uniquely capable of meeting the demands of a rapidly changing campus, state and world.”. We cater to everyone. “.

Until January, Macias, a member of the QTBIPOCA and Latinx Community Affairs student organizations, was sponsored by UT. SB 17 increases the pressure on students to establish and preserve safe spaces for historically marginalized and underrepresented groups, according to 1. According to Macias, her younger sister, a freshman at UT, won’t have the same resources as she did.

Macias questioned, “How do we survive as these institutions within UT?”.

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