UT Dallas Lays Off 20 Staffers, Closes Office to Comply with DEI Ban

UT Dallas follows UT Austin in laying off approximately 20 employees and closing a campus support office due to Texas’ DEI ban.

In the wake of Texas’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ban, UT Dallas has announced layoffs affecting approximately 20 employees and the closure of a campus support office. This move mirrors actions taken by UT Austin earlier, as both institutions grapple with the legislative restrictions imposed by Senate Bill 17.

University president Richard Benson communicated the decision in an email to the UT Dallas community on Tuesday, outlining the termination of the Office of Campus Resources and Support and the elimination of around two dozen positions, effective April 30.

The enactment of SB 17 on January 1 prohibits public colleges and universities from maintaining DEI offices and conducting related activities and programs. Consequently, institutions have been forced to adapt, leading to staffing changes and the cessation of certain initiatives.

Benson acknowledged the challenging nature of the decision, stating, “I know that this decision will not be welcomed by many in our campus community,” underscoring the university’s commitment to fostering a supportive environment despite the regulatory constraints.

Senator Brandon Creighton, the bill’s author, recently emphasized to university leaders that mere superficial changes to program names would not suffice as compliance. Non-compliance risks substantial state funding penalties, prompting institutions to reassess their DEI strategies.

While certain functions affected by the legislation will be relocated within other administrative units to maintain service continuity, the Accessibility Resource Center will continue to serve students under the Office of Academic Affairs, while services for employees will transition to human resources.

Despite previous assurances, the layoffs underscore the impact of SB 17 on university operations, prompting renewed scrutiny of the legislation’s implications. The broader national trend of DEI bans, with over 70 bills introduced in statehouses nationwide and eight enacted into law, reflects a contentious discourse on diversity and inclusion in higher education.

Following similar cuts at UT Austin, concerns have been raised regarding the discriminatory nature of the layoffs, perceived as targeting employees based on their previous DEI affiliations. Critics argue that such actions violate the rights of affected employees, further exacerbating tensions surrounding the DEI debate in academia.

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