At Least 60 Staffers Laid Off At University Of Texas As DEI Ban Takes Effect
An American flag flies with the Texas state flag outside the Texas State Capitol building in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Austin has spent the last 10 months engaged in a big experiment in urban transportation. Several hundreds of thousands of people will descend upon Austin for the annual South by Southwest festival, a nine-day event that could be described as a tech conference, a music and film festival.
Credit: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The University of Texas at Austin reportedly laid off at least 60 employees in positions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion after a Texas law banning DEI programs and offices at public universities took effect. 

UT Austin announced this week major organizational changes to comply with the state’s DEI law, Senate Bill 17, which went into effect in January. The law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in June 2023, prohibits public colleges in the state from establishing DEI offices and hiring DEI officers. 

In a Tuesday letter to staff and students, UT Austin President Jay Hartzell said that the school’s Division of Campus and Community Engagement, once known as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, would close.

“Soon after the passage last year of Senate Bill 17 — which prohibits many activities around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — the University embarked on a multiphase process to review campus portfolios and end or redesign the policies, programs, trainings, and roles affected by the new law,” Hartzell said. 

“Additionally, funding used to support DEI across campus prior to SB 17’s effective date will be redeployed to support teaching and research,” he added. “As part of this reallocation, associate or assistant deans who were formerly focused on DEI will return to their full-time faculty positions. The positions that provided support for those associate and assistant deans and a small number of staff roles across campus that were formerly focused on DEI will no longer be funded.”

The Austin American Statesman reported that “at least 60 staff members” have already been laid off due to the new law. According to Hartzell, employees whose DEI positions are being eliminated would be given the opportunity to apply for other open positions at UT-Austin. 


The layoffs come after state Senator Brandon Creighton wrote a letter last week informing Texas university leadership that the state Senate would be conducting oversight to ensure that they were complying with the law. 

“When Texas taxpayer dollars are used to fund offices, departments, or employee positions dedicated to promoting DEI initiatives, rather than basing decisions on merit, that is not only inappropriate, it is inconsistent with state law,” said Creighton. “Now that SB 17 is law, I’m confident that Texas public colleges and universities can return to their core mission of innovation and education— and if they do not, the Texas Senate will be resolute in enforcement of this legislation.”

Republican-led states across the country, from Florida to Alabama, have enacted bans on DEI in higher education amid criticism of schools prioritizing identity over education and merit.

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