Texas universities slashed hundreds of jobs and programs after state’s DEI ban

Texas public universities cut hundreds of jobs after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law last year banning diversity programs on college campuses, educational officials told lawmakers this week.

The University of Texas system’s nine academic and five health campuses have slashed 311 full- and part-time positions since the ban took effect Jan. 1. The campuses also eliminated a combined 681 contracts, programs and trainings related to diversity, equity and inclusion — initiatives commonly grouped together under the acronym DEI.

“You may not like the law … but it is the law,” University of Texas Systems Chancellor James B. Milliken said, according to a video of his testimony before the Texas state Senate.

In recent years, Republican politicians, conservative activists and right-wing social media influencers have railed against DEI programs as part of a wider crusade against what they characterize as “wokeness.” The proponents of DEI in education have argued that such efforts are essential to make schools more representative, fair and equal.

Milliken and other educational leaders were called to testify before the Texas Senate subcommittee on higher education Tuesday. The witnesses were asked about how their schools were complying with the state’s anti-DEI law as well as other issues, including campus antisemitism and free speech in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the war in Gaza, and the pro-Palestinian student protests that followed, according to a hearing notice posted online.

In a letter to university chancellors in late March, Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, said he was “deeply concerned” that some schools were trying to find loopholes to avoid enforcing the law.

“While I am encouraged with the progress I have seen from many institutions of higher education in implementing SB 17,” Creighton wrote, referring to the law, “I am deeply concerned with the possibility that many institutions may choose to merely rename their offices or employee titles.”

“This letter should serve as notice that this practice is unacceptable,” Creighton added.

Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states have introduced or passed more than 100 bills to restrict or regulate DEI initiatives in the most recent legislative session, according to an NBC News analysis published in March. Texas has enacted one of the most sweeping and stringent anti-DEI laws in the country; Abbott signed the law last summer.

The University of Texas at Austin last month announced the closure of the school’s Division of Campus and Community Engagement and laid off nearly 60 employees who worked in DEI-related roles. (Two hundred students at UT Austin disrupted a virtual faculty council meeting to protest the decision.)

In response to various Republican-backed bills and laws across the U.S., Democratic lawmakers in some states have sponsored bills meant to shore up support for DEI programs. 

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