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

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

Multicultural Engagement Center closes because of Senate Bill 17

Skyler Sharp
Students walk out of the former Multicultural Education Center on Jan. 18.

In compliance with Senate Bill 17, UT’s Multicultural Engagement Center closed on Jan. 1 after decades of serving students. SB 17 prohibits diversity, equity and inclusion offices at all Texas public universities.

The center previously operated with the goal to educate and empower students to be “leaders and agents of social change,” according to the website of the former MEC. It housed six University-sponsored student groups: Afrikan American Affairs, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Latino Leadership Council, Native American and Indigenous Collective, Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color and Allies, or QTBIPOCA, and Students for Equity and Diversity. 

“The University will consider how best to use the space as part of the Powers Student Activity Center to continue building community for all Longhorns,” the University said in a text statement.

Jordan Nellums, a graduate student in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said he knew SB 17 would affect the MEC but was shocked by the decision to fully shut it down. 

“The space was more than a physical space, it was a place where we could meet up with one another and find that community,” Nellums said. “That’s why it was shocking for a lot of students at UT.”

Nellums said the complete closure felt like a direct attack on students as a whole.

“DEI is so important because DEI is what could potentially let a student know that they deserve a place at a university,” Nellums said. “Sometimes the lack of a community can tell a student that you’re not welcomed here or you won’t be able to find your place here.”

Gabriel Orellana, a QTBIPOCA special events co-chair, said the organization received notice of the closure just days before the MEC shut its doors.

“It was very sudden,” government senior Orellana said. “We didn’t know how UT was going to go about implementing or following SB 17 guidelines.”

Otofu Ayaku, a QTBIPOCA community outreach intern, expressed similar sentiments. They said by the time they found out what changes would be made, it was too late to take precautionary measures.

“My initial reaction was shock (and) frustration,” said Ayaku, an art history and African and African diaspora sophomore. “Eventually it was an attitude of, ‘Okay, we have to get together and figure out informal alternatives to keep all of these agencies going.’”

In previous years, Orellana said QTBIPOCA received around $8,000 in funding from UT each year. He said the money covered events like Queer Prom, which brought together people in the community. Orellana said that since the organization is no longer an agency under the MEC, QTBIPOCA must fund itself.

Ayuka said many students are still unaware that the MEC has closed. The space, while no longer reserved for the MEC, is open for students to work in. Ayaku said many of the former MEC staff members are now working in different centers, such as the Center for Leadership and Learning.

Orellana said QTBIPOCA will continue to serve the UT community despite the MEC’s closure.

“Just because they’ve formally shut down the office space doesn’t mean that we won’t have a presence on campus anymore,” Orellana said. “This just makes us want to be louder and go even harder.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Naina Srivastava, Senior News Reporter & Senior Photographer
Naina is a freshman journalism major from Mountain View, California. She is currently a senior news reporter and senior photographer at the Texan.