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UT Dallas Closes Office, Lays Off 20 Staff Amid DEI Ban

The decision was made in response to SB 17, which prevents universities from having DEI offices or policies

The University of Texas at Dallas terminated approximately 20 employees and is shutting down a campus support office in response to the state's ban on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

According to The Dallas Morning News, starting April 30, the university will discontinue its Office of Campus Resources and Support. Affected employees were notified of the elimination of their positions. Student workers will maintain their employment until the end of the semester.

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.

On Feb. 22, the University of Texas System board chair, Kevin Eltife, read a statement that announced the university put all new policies promoting DEI on hold. All 13 university and health campuses across the state were asked for a report on all current DEI policies.

Last week, UT Austin also announced it would lay off as many as 60 employees to ensure it fully complies with the bill. According to Forbes, President Jay Hartzell's announcement to the UT Austin campus regarding this action occurred only a week following State Senator Brandon Creighton, the Republican sponsor of the legislation, sending a letter to institutions. 

In his letter, institutions were directed to respond in writing by May 3, outlining their compliance with five specific requirements of the law concerning DEI offices and training, diversity statements and "merit-based hiring."

“Many of our institutions of higher learning and state agencies rely on the usage of DEI initiatives to work in tandem with anti-discrimination laws to ensure that they don’t make hiring decisions based on race, religion, or gender,” State Representative and chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus Ron Reynolds previously said in an official statement. “Eliminating DEI initiatives will only hurt Texas institutions. Our diversity is our strength.”

On Thursday, a collective of UT professors sent an open letter to UT President Jay Hartzell, urging for the immediate reinstatement of laid-off employees. The letter asserted that the actions taken by the Austin university infringed upon the rights of the affected employees and seemed to be solely motivated by their past involvement in DEI initiatives. 

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