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UT Dallas to eliminate 20 jobs because of DEI ban

Richard Benson, president of the university, talks about semiconductor research after a press conference Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at University of Texas in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
Richard Benson, president of the university, talks about semiconductor research after a press conference Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at University of Texas in Dallas.

Citing the state’s campus DEI ban, the University of Texas at Dallas is eliminating a new student support office just months after it was created.

UTD President Richard Benson said in a message to students and staff Tuesdaythat the Office of Campus Resources and Support will be eliminated at the end of the month, along with approximately 20 related jobs.

The affected employees have been notified, Benson wrote, and student workers will be able to stay on through the end of the semester.

“A limited number of functions will be moved to other administrative units to ensure continuity of services to our students, faculty and staff,” he said. “Employees whose positions are being eliminated may apply for any open position at UT Dallas, and I encourage hiring managers to give these experienced and talented individuals careful review when making their hiring decisions.”

The school created the OCRS after it eliminated its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which had to close under Texas Senate Bill 17. The law prohibits DEI offices and programs at public colleges and universities in the state.

According to the OCRS website, it was intended to “house four Campus Resource Centers that aim to strengthen community ties, cultivate and sustain UT Dallas’ vibrant Comet culture, foster the next generation of STEM leaders and advance accessibility for students and employees.”

The office also outlined three new departments designed to “foster a welcoming university climate,” including through “SB 17-compliant staff and faculty trainings.” It's unclear what will happen to those departments.

In his announcement Tuesday, Benson noted that since making “several organizational changes” to comply with the law, “we have continued to evaluate our SB 17 response and how to realign many of the programs impacted by the legislation.”

The AccessAbility Resource Center, which provides disability and accessibility services to students, will move under the Office of Academic Affairs. Similar services for employees will move to Human Resources, Benson wrote.

Last month state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who authored SB 17, sent a letter to members of the state board of regents announcing a hearing in May over the law and requesting documentation from schools on how they are complying with the new policy.

“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.”

Earlier this month UT Austin announced it was laying off about 60 employees whose positions had previously focused on DEI work.

Benson assured an August gathering of UT leaders that no DEI employees at UTD would lose their jobs because of SB 17.

“I know that this decision will not be welcomed by many in our campus community,” he wrote in his message Tuesday.

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Nadya Faulx