On Aug. 1, 2023, University of North Texas officials announced the dissolution of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office at the University of North Texas. This decision was taken in response to a recently enacted state law that mandates the elimination of such offices in all public colleges and universities.
According to a statement from UNT President Neal Smatresk, Joanne Woodard will retire from her role as vice president for inclusion, diversity, equity and access. With Woodard’s retirement on October 1, 2023, the DEI will be dissolved. The offices of Title IX, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action will be moved to the division of finance and administration.
The decision was made in response to Senate Bill 17 (SB 17), which prevents public colleges and universities in Texas from having DEI offices or policies. The bill also prohibits hiring or employment practices that take into account race, sex, color or ethnicity.
“Our efforts are centered around working with faculty, staff, and student groups to make sure we support our students’ success and academic achievement,” a statement Smatresk said. “We will keep the community informed of any further changes.”
UNT said they are considering how to reorganize the multicultural center, pride alliance and all related programs that support students’ engagement. This process will be led by Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth With. Soon mission statements and operational structures that comply with SB17 and federal law will be presented.
“Senior administrators and I are doing our best to create a plan that ensures we will continue to support all our community members’ needs and take advantage of the talented staff members currently within the division by working to reassign them throughout the university in ways that improve our academic community,” Smatresk said. “As a university committed to the education of Texans, we will remain steadfast in living our values and serving our diverse community. We know that we are better together, and together is how we will move forward, now and in the future.”
Chancellor of the UNT System, Michael R. Williams, first told faculty, staff and students in a statement on March 8, 2023 that any new diversity, equity and inclusion “policies, programs and training” were paused. UNT was one of the last systems in Texas to pause DEI, which was prompted by Abbott’s Feb. 6 warning to state agencies saying that DEI policies and programs are illegal in hiring processes.
Update 08/03/2023 A previous version of this article contained an incorrect date. It has been updated to reflect the correct information.