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Education

In the midst of a state-wide ban on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, the University of Texas has made the decision to terminate numerous employees

A Texas university has initiated substantial staff layoffs following the enactment of a statewide prohibition on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in public colleges.

Republican State Senator Brandon Creighton recently communicated the state’s expectations to university system administrators regarding compliance with Senate Bill 17, an anti-DEI legislation implemented in January. In response, the University of Texas at Austin has reportedly terminated approximately 60 staff members holding DEI-related positions, as confirmed by sources familiar with the terminations speaking to the Austin American-Statesman.

This decision represents a further escalation in the ongoing challenges faced by programs supporting marginalized groups in higher education. Particularly in conservative-leaning states like Texas and Florida, anti-DEI laws have led to the closure of safe spaces for LGBTQ students and raised concerns about potential faculty and student exodus to more progressive states.

While the University of Texas has not officially disclosed the number of layoffs or provided details on affected positions, reports suggest that at least 60 employees have been let go, with 40 of them from the Division of Campus and Community Engagement. The layoffs are expected to take effect within 90 days or longer, according to insiders who requested anonymity due to lack of authorization to discuss the matter publicly. The university has not responded to requests for comment from the Statesman.

Furthermore, the University of Texas at Austin is discontinuing the Division of Campus and Community Engagement, previously known as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. President Jay Hartzell acknowledged that while the university had made adjustments before January 1 to comply with SB 17, additional measures are now required to streamline resources in support of teaching and research missions.

Remaining programs will be redistributed across other divisions, with funding previously allocated for DEI initiatives redirected towards teaching and research support. However, student assistance will continue throughout the semester. Employees affected by the layoffs will have the opportunity to apply for existing open positions within the university, with resources provided to support them through the transition.

The impact of SB 17 extends beyond the University of Texas, with similar actions anticipated at other institutions across the state. In recent years, conservative-led efforts against DEI programs have gained momentum, with over 80 related bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide since 2023. SB 17 stands out as one of the most comprehensive DEI prohibitions, mandating significant operational changes within higher education institutions.

As the university community grapples with the repercussions of these measures, concerns about their impact on student support, recruitment, and retention continue to grow. The broader implications of SB 17 underscore ongoing debates surrounding diversity and inclusion in higher education policy.

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