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DEI jobs, policies being eliminated at Texas universities to comply with new law

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(The Center Square) – Diversity, equity and inclusion jobs and policies are are being eliminated at Texas higher education universities as administrators begin complying with a new law that went into effect this year.

SB 17, filed by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, bans DEI policies at higher education institutions. When introducing the bill last year, Creighton pointed to hiring policies at Texas A&M University and Texas Tech, which he said appeared to violate federal law, The Center Square reported. His bill passed the legislature last year and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law last June.

The new law requires state-funded colleges and universities in Texas to close all DEI offices, end all activities that discriminate against students based on race, ethnicity or gender, and eliminate diversity statements for job applicants and all mandatory DEI training. It went into effect Jan. 1.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick identified oversight of the ban as one of 57 interim charges for the legislature to address this year. In March, Creighton sent a letter to university chancellors and regents explaining the oversight processes and gave them a compliance deadline of May 3.

Creighton expressed concerns about noncompliance, saying, “While I am encouraged with the progress I have seen from many institutions of higher education and implementing SB17, I am deeply concerned with the possibility that many institutions may choose to merely rename their offices or employee titles. This letter should serve as notice that this practice is unacceptable – and also a reminder that SB17 encompasses stringent enforcement provisions, including the potential freezing of university funding and legal ramifications for noncompliance.”

Before the law passed, some higher education institutions were proactively embracing DEI and some faculty were claiming they would still teach it or incorporate it under a different name, The Center Square reported. After the law was passed, UT Dallas President Richard Benson “said no DEI employees would lose their jobs, and promised a commitment to DEI goals,” KERA News reported.

However, after Creighton’s letter was sent last month, universities began announcing DEI-related layoffs and office closures, including Texas’ largest university, the University of Texas at Austin. The termination notices sent shockwaves throughout academia, including among those who openly opposed it and appear to have previously expressed they were immune from it.

UT Austin reportedly sent 90-day termination notices this month to 62 professional staff working in DEI. Administrators also closed UT Austin’s Department of Community and Campus Engagement.

The American Association of University Professors at UT Austin issued a statement saying the “administration refuses to provide the number of employees who were fired” but that it compiled a list based on termination notices from staff.

On April 11, it issued another statement and published an example of a termination letter, saying it was sent “without warning and came as a complete shock. The letter gives no reason for the termination nor acknowledges the work the staff member had done to comply with SB 17. The letter does not acknowledge that they had been promised that they would not lose their jobs. The staff member received no due process prior” and “the notice does not describe the options for due process for the staff member such as an appeal or grievance. There is no severance package.”

UT Austin President Jay Hartzell explained that despite closing the DCCE, remaining programs were being redistributed.

“This means that we will continue to operate many programs with rich history spanning decades,” he said, adding that they would be part of other divisions.

Hartzell also said funding used to support DEI across campus prior to SB17 going into effect would be “redeployed to support teaching and research. A small number of staff roles across campus that were formally focused on DEI will no longer be funded.”

Benson announced UT Dallas was eliminating 20 DEI positions.

Creighton told The Center Square the announcements were a positive sign, demonstrating that UT administrators “are taking steps to ensure compliance with SB 17 – the strongest ban on DEI in the nation.

“While any decision to release staff members is a difficult one, the efficiencies gained, and reinvestment into recruiting a diverse blend of students and professors, based upon merit, are of the highest priority. DEI has produced less diversity, divided students, and mandated political loyalty oaths before anyone gets an interview. It’s been a failed experiment that threatens free speech and is a drag on research and innovation at many of our best colleges and universities.

“Now that we are in a new era, Texas taxpayer funded higher education can return to a merit-based framework that will better serve their students and faculty.”

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