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NATION

Texas university leaders say hundreds of positions, programs cut to comply with DEI ban

Acacia Coronado
Associated Press

Austin, Texas — Texas universities eliminated or changed hundreds of jobs in recent months in response to one of the nation's most sweeping bans on diversity programs on college campuses, school officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

In the fullest public accounting of the new Texas law to date, the head University of Texas system announced that its nine academic and five health campuses alone had cut 300 full- and part-time positions. Those campuses combined also did away with more than 600 programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion training.

"You may not like the law, but it is the law,” University of Texas Systems Chancellor James Milliken said.

Milliken was one of several chancellors who GOP state senators called to the Texas Capitol to testify on how campuses are complying with the law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last year. Texas is among about one-third of states across the nation that have taken steps to limit or prohibit DEI initiatives and practices.

Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, in a letter to chancellors in March, said he was concerned that some campuses were trying to skirt the law or find loopholes, such as renaming employing titles or campus offices.

“This letter should serve as a notice that this practice is unacceptable,” Creighton wrote in the letter.

Republican lawmakers in about two dozen states have filed bills seeking to restrict DEI initiatives this year, according to an Associated Press analysis using the legislation-tracking software Plural. Meanwhile, Democrats have sponsored measures supporting DEI in at least 20 states.

Last month, the flagship University of Texas campus in Austin — one of the largest campuses in the U.S. — announced the closure of the school's Division of Campus and Community Engagement and the elimination of jobs in order to comply with the ban.

Earlier this year, the University of Florida announced more than a dozen terminations in response to a similar state ban.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp told lawmakers the legislation “makes it crystal clear” that “if you tread back into the bad waters, something bad is going to happen to you.”

On Monday, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approved diverting $2.3 million of state funds for advancing diversity to instead serve public safety and policing. The move comes as North Carolina’s public university system will consider changing its diversity policy before the legislature steps in.

In Oklahoma, the head of the University of Oklahoma’s Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center announced earlier this month that he was forced to terminate its National Education for Women Leadership program because of an anti-DEI executive order signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt last year. The program trained more than 650 women from dozens of colleges and universities across the country over the past 20 years.

“As one of only a handful of women to have held leadership positions in the Legislature since statehood, I believe this program’s elimination is a terrible loss,” said Democratic Oklahoma state Sen. Kay Floyd in a statement.

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Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.