Saturday, April 06, 2024

A Timeline of Challenges to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of Texas at Austin


As promised in my previous blog post, here is a chronology or timeline of recent events at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) that highlights public statements. on Senate Bill 17 and its implementation. Understanding that the timeline is listed out by date of publications, it's not a strict timeline. That said, what I am seeing is that the publications do track closely to the playing out of events at UT Austin.

The struggle began much earlier, of course, during the 88th (2023) Texas legislative session, much of which I have already captured on this blog.

This is most definitely a dark moment in the history of UT and Texas. Have courage, my friends, and be sure to reach out to whoever represents you to let them know your thoughts and feelings about this negative and harmful attack on diversity in our state. Also, be sure to vote and to get others around you to vote. Your vote is your voice. Su voto es su voz!

In the meantime, also read this New York Times piece by Confesossore (2024) titled, "America is under attack”: Inside the anti-D.E.I. crusade," as this will provide some context. Moreover, given that this is a national "crusade," folks in other states can keep current via the DEI tracker appearing below.

My plans are to update this specific blog regularly. My goal is not to be exhaustive, but as informative as possible. This is going to be playing out for some time.

-Angela Valenzuela




Editorial board. (2023, March 10). Editorial: Abbott's attack on diversity policies is a step backward, Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board. 

American Association of University Professors (2023, Sept. 27). Faculty in red states express concerns over political interference.

Confessore, N. (2024, Jan. 20) “America is under attack”: Inside the anti-D.E.I. crusade.

Texas Public Policy Foundation (2024, Feb. 13). TPPF Announces Top Priorities for the Texas Legislative Session [website]

Svivastava, N. (2024, March 25). Native student organization moves powwow off campus

Brandon Creighton  letter to Chancellor Williams and the Board of Regents of University of North Texas System: (cited in the Creighton press release above)

Hartzell, J. (2024, April 2). Organizational Changes. University of Texas at Austin. (also Hartzell letter below )

Mangan, K.  (2024, April 2). After DEI Ban, UT-Austin Eliminates a Division and Lays Off Its Former Diversity Staff, Chronicle of Higher Education

Joint Press Release by Texas AAUP & Texas NAACP. (2024, April 2). UT Austin Staff Laid Off in new SB 17-related development.

Bryant, J. & Appleby, C. (2024, April 3). These states’ Anti-DEI legislation may impact higher education.

CBS News. (2024, April 3). Austin Fires Dozens to Comply with Texas TEI Law.

Executive Committee of the UT Austin advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). (2024, April 4). Protest Letter to Jay Hartzell.

Editors. (2024, April 7).The harsh consequences of the Texas GOP's fervor to crush DEI at UTAustin American-Statesman

Kepner, L. (2024, April 12). 'This was a breach of trust': TX NAACP confirms 66 former UT DEI jobs lost at UT, Austin American-Statesman.

Gretzinger, E. (2023, April 17). 'A Pawn in a Game' Why Texas A & M's lone Black professor of nursing called it quits, Chronicle of Higher Education

Irwin, L. (2023, April 18).  UT Austin students protest layoffs over new DEI banThe Hill.

Kepner, L. (2024, June 11). UT Austin initiates discipline for student protesters, places hold on transcripts, Austin American-Statesman

Miscellaneous Pertinent Documents
National Urban League. (2024). WE DEMAND DIVERSITY! Advocacy Toolkit
National Urban League. (June 3, 2024). Active Campaign Dates.

April 2, 2024

Dear UT community,
Soon after the passage last year of Senate Bill 17 — which prohibits many activities around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — the University embarked on a multiphase process to review campus portfolios and end or redesign the policies, programs, trainings, and roles affected by the new law. Our initial focus was to ensure we made the required changes by SB 17’s January 1 effective date, but we knew that more work would be required to utilize our talent and resources most effectively in support of our teaching and research missions, and ultimately, our students. 

Since that date, we have been evaluating our post-SB 17 portfolio of divisions, programs, and positions. The new law has changed the scope of some programs on campus, making them broader and creating duplication with long-standing existing programs supporting students, faculty, and staff. Following those reviews, we have concluded that additional measures are necessary to reduce overlap, streamline student-facing portfolios, and optimize and redirect resources into our fundamental activities of teaching and research. 

For these reasons, we are discontinuing programs and activities within the Division of Campus and Community Engagement (DCCE) that now overlap with our efforts elsewhere. Following these changes, the scale and needs of the remaining DCCE activities do not justify a stand-alone division. As a result, we are closing DCCE and redistributing the remaining programs. This means that we will continue to operate many programs with rich histories spanning decades, such as disability services, University Interscholastic League, the UT charter schools, and volunteer and community programs. Going forward, these programs will be part of other divisions where they complement existing operations. We know these programs and the dedicated staff who run them will continue to have positive impacts on our campus and community.

Additionally, funding used to support DEI across campus prior to SB 17’s effective date will be redeployed to support teaching and research. As part of this reallocation, associate or assistant deans who were formerly focused on DEI will return to their full-time faculty positions. The positions that provided support for those associate and assistant deans and a small number of staff roles across campus that were formerly focused on DEI will no longer be funded.

I recognize that strong feelings have surrounded SB 17 from the beginning and will shape many Longhorns’ perceptions of these measures. It is important that we respect the perspectives and experiences of our fellow Longhorns as the changes we are announcing today take effect. It is also important that this continues to be a welcoming, supportive community for all.

Respect for our students, faculty, and staff will be essential as we make these changes. The Division of Student Affairs will work to ensure that current student-facing services will continue to be available for the rest of this semester, and student workers also will retain their positions through the end of this term. Staff members whose positions are being eliminated will have the opportunity to apply and be considered for existing open positions at the University, and resources will be made available to support them.

UT Austin is a world-class public research university serving all of Texas and more than 50,000 incredible students. Our students, alumni, faculty, and staff continue to affect the world in meaningful ways each day. Other campus leaders and I appreciate your ongoing efforts as we seek to maximize the impact of our teaching and research.
Sincerely yours, 

Jay Hartzell

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