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

Hartzell addresses DCCE closure, layoffs, Gov. Abbott’s executive order regarding anti-semitism, Islamophobic incidents at faculty council meeting

Leila Saidane
President Jay Hartzell at the State of the University Address on Sept. 19, 2023.

President Jay Hartzell and UT leadership addressed concerns related to the closure of the Division of Campus and Community Engagement, free speech and academic freedom at a Monday faculty council meeting.

Hartzell answered pre-submitted questions from faculty members at the Zoom meeting. This marks the first time he publicly addressed these topics.  

Hartzell said the University discontinued the DCCE to optimize organizational efficiency. The University originally modified DCCE programs to comply with Senate Bill 17 in January. While he said he believes the University was in compliance after these initial changes, many of these changes generalized the programs and opened them up to students beyond their initial target demographics, Hartzell said.

 “(The bill) caused the initial program adjustments … (and) those adjustments caused the nature of those programs and how they fit with the rest of the campus to change, there’s more overlap, more redundancies,” Hartzell said. 

The University’s responsibility as a flagship state university, and Texas’ changing legislative environment, also influenced the closure.

“We are subject to more scrutiny than others and scrutiny not only about how we implemented Senate Bill 17, but just overall how we run the University, how we serve our students (and) what we do in terms of our teaching and our research,” Hartzell said.

The UT chapter of the American Association of University Professors verified 62 professional staff received termination notices on April 2, the same day the University announced the DCCE closure. Hartzell said 49 positions were eliminated and eight, who were associate or assistant deans, will return to their full faculty positions. Eliminated staff will receive pay through July 5, a longer period than typical, Hartzell said. 

“That is something that we clearly don’t take lightly,” Hartzell said. “I hate that it affected people. It’s something that our whole leadership team worked on and fretted over because it’s something that not only ‘How do we serve our students on our campus’ but also because there are people, colleagues, we’ve worked with for, in many cases, for a long time, who are affected by that.”

Hartzell said the University has policies and procedures in place for staff members whose positions were eliminated, including “special considerations” should they apply for an open role at the University. Funding previously allocated toward the DCCE will go toward teaching and research, Hartzell said. 

The University also reviewed its free speech policies in response to Abbott’s executive order addressing anti-semitism. Amanda Cochran-McCall, the University’s vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, said at the meeting that existing policies do encompass the order. She also said current policies are being enforced on campus, which follows the order’s second directive.

“Our policy is neutral and applies to everyone the same way,” Cochran-McCall said. “Any group, no matter who they are, if they’re engaging in conduct that violates our policy, they would be subject to discipline for that conduct.”

UT Systems advised UT Austin to hold on enacting the governor’s third directive, which requires universities to include a definition of anti-semitism. 

 (The system) wants all of the campuses to be aligned in our approach,”  Cochran-McCall said. “My understanding is they’re also seeking additional clarification potentially from the governor’s office staff.”

Hartzell also addressed recent Islamophobic incidents in the UT community, including the stabbing of a Palestinian-American in West Campus and the attack of a Muslim student on campus. He said the University is working to create a revised policy to better inform the community of non-ongoing threats. The University currently sends alerts about ongoing threats in alignment with the Clery Act, but does not notify the community about resolved incidents.

Last October, multiple non-UT affiliated individuals disrupted Palestine Solidarity Committee student members at an educational event in Welch Hall, an incident Hartzell cited as an example of an “innocent miscommunication,” as UTPD planned to be in attendance but officers were unaware of a room change. 

“I certainly hate that any Muslim, Arab (and) Palestinian students, or others feel threats or danger, given the times that we live in,” Hartzell said. “We won’t tolerate violence toward people in our community, and we’re gonna continue to work on that.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect the changes to associate and assistant deans returning to faculty positions. 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.
Leila Saidane, Photo Editor
Leila Saidane is a junior from Dallas, Texas, studying Radio-TV-Film and Journalism. Her words and photos have been published in The Texas Tribune, The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman and The Dallas Morning News.