In an effort to further comply with a new state law prohibiting public universities from maintaining diversity, equity and inclusion offices or programs, The University of Texas at Dallas is laying off multiple employees and closing a recently created campus support office.

The move comes about four months after Senate Bill 17, which prohibits public universities from maintaining DEI offices or programs, took effect and about a week after UT's Austin campus made similar cuts.

“I know that this decision will not be welcomed by many in our campus community,” UT Dallas President Richard Benson wrote in an April 9 letter to faculty, staff and students. “I remain committed to ensuring that UT Dallas is a supportive community focused on developing the knowledge, the research and the people that are vital to our future.”

What happened

Benson announced about 20 positions at the university’s Office of Campus Resources and Support will be eliminated as the office is also shuttered on April 30.

Benson said that a “limited number of functions will be moved to other administrative units” and that student workers will retain their positions until the end of the semester.

The OCRS was created Jan. 1, after UT Dallas eliminated its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on Dec. 31 in an effort to better comply with SB 17. According to UT Dallas’ website, the OCRS was focused on “enhancing student community-building and supporting employees and employee resource groups.”

Part of the OCRS, the AccessAbility Resource Center, which focuses on disability and accessibility services for students, will be moved under the Office of Academic Affairs. Disability and accessibility services for employees will be moved under the Human Resources Department.

UT Dallas officials declined to provide further comment on the cuts.

Looking ahead

The Texas Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing in May to review whether universities are complying with SB 17, bill author Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said in a March 26 letter sent to Texas institutions.

“While I am encouraged with the progress I have seen from many institutions of higher education in implementing SB 17, I am deeply concerned with the possibility that many institutions may choose to merely rename their offices or employee titles,” Creighton wrote. “This letter should serve as notice that this practice is unacceptable.”

Creighton directed university leaders to provide the committee with information about how they have prohibited DEI offices, mandatory DEI trainings, diversity-based hiring practices and more by May 3.

Lawmakers can freeze state funding for universities or take legal action if they do not follow the law, the letter states.

Hannah Norton contributed to this report.