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

UT community upset after DCCE closure, staff layoffs

Lorianne Willett

The University announced the closure of the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and subsequent layoffs in an email on Tuesday, leaving staff and students blindsided.

The Division’s termination means some programs previously housed under the DCCE, including the Women’s Community Center, will also be dissolved. Approximately 60 individuals were fired, including 40 former employees of the DCCE, according to a joint press release from the Texas American Association of University Professors and the Texas NAACP. This email follows a March 26 letter from Sen. Brandon Creighton, an author of Senate Bill 17, warning universities against only changing job titles to comply with the bill. 

According to the press release, the University already moved employees to entirely different jobs unrelated to diversity, equity and inclusion, making the terminations unnecessary. 

“Many of the employees in question did not have jobs where there were simple label changes,” Texas’ AAUP and NAACP said in the press release. “They were in jobs and positions that were very different responsibilities from their former DEI jobs.”

This decision also follows concerns about the over-implementation of SB 17 thus far from civil rights organizations like Equality Texas and student groups on campus. 

“There have been grave concerns about over-implementation happening in terms of Senate Bill 17,” said Antonio Ingram, an assistant counsel with the Legal Defense Fund. “Today’s activities represent another chapter of that over-implementation.”

A DCCE employee, who requested anonymity, said staff from various DCCE programs attended a mandatory call Tuesday morning where the University informed them of their termination and the DCCE closure. 

“It was a 30-minute meeting, and I saw HR was on it,” the employee said. “I knew immediately, ‘That’s a firing call.’”

Many of the DCCE’s programs are being transferred to other parts of the University. Programs such as Disability and Access and First Generation Longhorns will now fall under the Division of Student Affairs.

According to Hartzell’s email, associate and assistant deans who previously worked in DEI capacities will return to their full-time faculty positions. Their staff and several other faculty across campus who previously held DEI-related positions are terminated.

Taizon Walker, a government and philosophy sophomore, said she initially learned of her job’s dissolution through a direct message from a coworker. Walker, who works for a program under the Office of the Dean of Students, said her bosses were fired as part of the closure. Walker has yet to receive any official University communication about her job.

“We had an event today, so I texted my boss and I said ‘Hello, where in the Union are we meeting?’” Walker said. “She said, ‘Our job has been dissolved today.’”

In the email announcement yesterday, Hartzell said student employees will retain their positions until the end of the semester. However, Walker said her program’s events for the rest of the week were canceled. She does not know the status of events for the rest of the semester. 

Ingram said the University’s actions represent a “pathology of discrimination” where individuals who previously worked in DEI-related positions are deemed as tainted and unemployable.

Ingram said the closure could lead students in marginalized communities to feel less at home at the University.

“People are being punished for wanting to create a safe space for people of color and queer people and women,” Ingram said. “That is the crime they have committed.”

The University declined to comment further.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct a source’s job affiliation. The Texan regrets this error.

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About the Contributors
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.
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.