UT lays off dozens of staffers to comply with Texas’ DEI ban, advocacy groups say

A week after a lawmaker warned university leaders about repercussions for not following Texas’ DEI ban, UT announces more efforts to reduce its programs.

April 3: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

In a continued effort to comply with Texas’ DEI ban, the University of Texas at Austin is laying off dozens of staff members, advocacy groups said.

En español: UT despide a decenas de empleados por ley que prohíbe programas de diversidad en Texas

UT President Jay Hartzell announced in a message to the school community on Tuesday the closure of the division of campus and community engagement — a division predominantly operated by former DEI positions — in an effort to “streamline student-facing” programs. Hartzell’s email did not mention layoffs.


University officials have not confirmed how many people lost jobs due to closing the division. They did not respond to questions about the cuts but referred to Hartzell’s message.

The Education Lab

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The move to further scale back offerings comes about a week after Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, sent a letter to colleges across the state warning them of repercussions if they only change the names of jobs or programs but continue pursuing DEI work.

The Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors and the Texas chapter of the NAACP issued a joint statement noting that estimates indicate about 60 people were notified they were losing their jobs.


Most had previously worked in offices related to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and were recently part of the Division of Campus and Community Engagement, according to the statement.

“Many of the employees in question did not have jobs where there were simple label changes,” Brian Evans, interim president of the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors, and Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas chapter of the NAACP said in the statement. The staffers “were in jobs and positions that were very different responsibilities from their former DEI jobs,”


Hartzell noted in his statement that funding previously used for DEI efforts will be redeployed to support teaching and research.

“Additional measures are necessary to reduce overlap, streamline student-facing portfolios, and optimize and redirect resources into our fundamental activities of teaching and research,” Hartzell said in the statement.

DEI generally is a set of practices that aim to provide resources and create opportunities for those who historically haven’t been welcomed into higher education.

But critics of DEI argue that it is a way of favoring race over merit and forcing students to believe in the same ideology. The new law banning DEI from Texas campuses, also known as SB 17, went into effect Jan. 1.

Along with other universities, UT had already renamed or closed down centers and programs.

“[The ban is] the most robust DEI prohibition in the nation,” Creighton wrote in his letter to university officials recently, with the goal of “ensuring a merit-based environment where every student, faculty and staff member can strive for and achieve personal excellence.”

Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, called on UT’s president to “immediately rescind the termination notices.”

”None of the affected roles were categorized as DEI, so this is yet another overreaction to SB 17′s implementation,” Reynolds, chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement Wednesday. “While some of these effects were forecasted last session, the consequences that students and faculty continue to bear at the hands of state leadership are deeply troubling.”


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