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

The MEC is here to stay

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

Editor’s note: This column was submitted to the Texan by members of the UT community.

On Jan. 1, 2024, the Multicultural Engagement Center was forcibly shut down. This loss is devastating to us and the broader UT community.

In the 1980s, 35% of Black and 45% of Latino students graduated from the University within five years. These graduation rates stemmed from the University’s apathy towards Black and Brown students. When it was clear that no one in power would care for their well-being, these students successfully fought for a center for Black, Indigenous, People of Color on campus.  

Before its closing, the MEC housed six student-led agencies: the Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color Agency, Native American Indigenous Collective, Afrikan American Affairs, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Latinx Community Affairs and Students for Equity and Diversity. These agencies host educational and community events, cultural celebrations, leadership development programs and more. However, these are not the sole responsibilities of the center and its staff. 

The MEC staff facilitated an academic course, “Leadership As Activism,” assisted agencies in leading cultural graduations, sponsored cultural immersion trips to expose students to diverse cultures and identities and hosted The Leadership Exchange trip, allowing students to learn from university and student leaders and activists across the nation. 

The MEC was a hub for student activism and a sanctuary for student learning and growth. It was considered a home for students regardless of ethnicity, race, background or identity. The staff’s goal has always been to enrich students’ lives with unique experiences because, for many students, these opportunities have been a gateway to entirely new worldviews. 

In August 2023, university administration alerted MEC staff and students that the center required changes to comply with the DEI ban. In response to this directive, staff and students worked diligently to bring the MEC’s operations into compliance with the law and to preserve what remained of the center. The MEC would no longer offer DEI workshops and host cultural graduations, and the agencies would no longer receive university funding and sponsorship. While this was bad, it got worse. 

Two days before winter break, MEC staff was told that the center would shut down on January 1st. Although it was clear that the MEC would possibly undergo additional changes due to the law, nobody anticipated the complete abandonment we’re witnessing today. The MEC was diligently working towards compliance with SB 17 and protection of its existence. As alumni, it is our responsibility to question the University’s decisions as they fail to prioritize the well-being of our students and staff. 

The Gender and Sexuality Center, no stranger to the impact of the DEI ban, had the chance to change into the Women’s Community Center to comply with the law. Why was the MEC not afforded the same opportunity? Texas A&M – College Station’s Department of Multicultural Services continues to operate. University of Texas at Arlington’s Intercultural Student Engagement Center still exists. Why was the MEC targeted by our administration?  

In addition, we have concerns about what will become of the physical space now that the University has shut down the center’s operations. By design, the center occupied prime real estate in a building created by and for students. What is the University’s plan for the physical space, and can we be assured that students will have a say in the next phase as they did at its inception?  

Our call to action is clear – we demand the re-establishment of the Multicultural Engagement Center. We urge everyone to listen to the requests of MEC students and staff as the law continues to go into effect. We are determined to protect the space and community responsible for our survival.  

De La Garza is a May 2023 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and former student leader at the Multicultural Engagement Center

Rizvi is a December 2023 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and former student leader at the Multicultural Engagement Center

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