Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Division of Diversity and Community Engagement renamed amid SB 17 changes

Breyona Mitchell

The Division of Campus and Community Engagement changed its name to comply with Senate Bill 17, which went into effect on Jan. 1 and prohibits all diversity, equity and inclusion mandatory trainings, offices and hiring practices in publicly funded universities in Texas.   

Formerly known as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the University-affiliated division released an all-campus division announcement on Dec. 14, informing the student body of the changes to the division and pledging to adhere to its mission of fostering access and belonging. Organizations have changed their names to contend with these changes. For example, First-Gen Equity has changed its name to First-Gen Longhorns.

Despite the removal of DEI offices and protocols, the DCCE states that it remains committed to dedicating itself to supporting and recruiting others to create a culture for people to thrive in as part of President Jay Hartzell’s plan to become the world’s highest-impact public research University. 

“(Hartzell’s) plan depends on attracting and recruiting the most talented people and creating a culture where they thrive and excel. We commit ourselves to supporting the whole person, nurturing small communities, improving social mobility and serving the world,” according to the announcement.

The University declined to comment further on the changes to the DCCE.

Laysha Gonzalez, a Plan II and race, indigeneity and migration junior, said she often uses the services provided by First-Gen Longhorns, an organization that provides academic, social and professional experiences, workshops and events for first-generation college students. She said SB 17 puts more pressure on students to make these spaces live up to their full potential.

“(SB 17) is very unfortunate because for a lot of students, the only way they’re able to get through (college) … is a lot of times these resources and these clubs like First-Gen Longhorns, and the (Division of Campus) and Community Engagement,” Gonzalez said. “Diversity and inclusion outlets, whether they’re University affiliated or a (student) organization (are important), without that space success is put on a pedestal that’s declining.”

RGV Familia, another organization under the DCCE, provides support for students from the Rio Grande Valley, according to its website. Psychology senior Hayley Baker has been involved with RGV Familia since 2021 and held multiple positions of leadership within the organization. She called it one of her safe spaces since coming to UT.  She said she thinks it’s important that spaces like RGV Familia remain despite SB 17 because of the sense of community it brings.

“Coming from a small border town into the bigger city where most of your peers are (from) Dallas, Fort Worth or Houston, or (any) other bigger metropolitan places … it’s really helpful to be around people that are more like you and are going through the same experiences as you,” said Baker, the 2023 RGV Familia recruitment chair. “You’re able to help (and) grow together throughout your academic career.”

Gonzalez said navigating SB 17 remains a new challenge for students and faculty, with students having to readapt to no longer having accessibility to certain resources provided by the University, or adopting them as student-led organizations.

“Everybody knows the phrase — ‘what starts here changes the world’ … but the world is diverse, it’s seeking equity, it’s everything that (SB17) removes,” Gonzalez said. “It’s disappointing and heartbreaking for students because they chose (UT) because it checks off (everything on their) list and now, it’s disappearing and … making it harder to (change the world). We’re dedicating all of this energy and work as students and (SB17) throws it into the trash.”

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About the Contributor
Breyona Mitchell, Associate Comics Editor
Breyona is a sophomore english and studio art double major from Houston, Texas. Currently, they work as the associate comics editor and has previously drawn for the paper as a senior artist. They love playing video games with their friends.