UTSA said it would create an office to replace DEI program banned by new state law. Now they’re scrapping those plans.

Decision comes a month after plans were announced for a new office

UTSA main campus at Loop 1604. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – As public universities across Texas react to a new law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott to eliminate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) offices from their campuses, UTSA announced earlier this week it will axe its proposed DEI office replacement.

The announcement is a shift from what university officials said last month.

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The university initially released plans last month to replace the former Office of Inclusive Excellence by creating the Office of Campus and Community Belonging, compliant with the new law. The now-closed Office of Inclusive Excellence opened in 2019.

But on Tuesday, UTSA made another announcement stating the new office would not be launched.

Plans to offset the proposed office’s responsibilities will now be given to existing offices at the university.

“This integrated approach is more efficient as we continue to serve our campus community,” the university said in the story.

UTSA officials cited an “evolving understanding” and “continuing voluntary changes in staffing and personnel appointment” as reasons for the decision. It is not immediately clear how many employee changes affected UTSA’s decision.

The statement was published through UTSA Today, the university’s official news source.

A UTSA spokesperson did not immediately return an email asking about what new evaluations led to the decision. This story will be updated if a response is received.

Senate Bill 17, the new state law banning DEI offices on college campuses, among other requirements, took effect on Jan. 1, 2024. Abbott signed the law in June 2022.

While SB 17 restricts universities from using preferential treatment in hiring and training practices based on race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, there are exemptions to the law.

In a report from UTSA’s independent student newspaper, The Paisano, Dean of Students LT Robinson said that exemptions such as course instruction, student organization activities and the university’s status as a Hispanic-serving institution are unaffected.

A November faculty senate report says that in 2024, UTSA plans to develop resources and processes to educate its community on upholding compliance with SB 17. Guidelines for new programs, activities and initiatives will also be released.

UTSA has made its process for evaluating the effects of SB 17 clear on a website devoted to the new law.

How other schools have responded

Texas State President Dr. Kelly Damphousse announced last summer that its Division of Inclusive Excellence would be dissolved effective Aug. 1, 2023.

Employees working in the former office were given the opportunity to be reassigned to other offices, an email from the Office of the President to faculty and staff said.

The Texas Tribune reported in September that the Texas A&M-University System was dissolving its DEI office and revising university policies per the new law.

The University of North Texas opened a Center for Belonging and Engagement, a division compliant with the new law, which will operate as part of the university’s student affairs department, a report from the Denton Chronicle said.

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About the Author

Mason Hickok is a digital journalist at KSAT. He graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a communication degree and a minor in film studies. He also spent two years working at The Paisano, the independent student newspaper at UTSA. Outside of the newsroom, he enjoys the outdoors, reading and watching movies.

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