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'Who's going to be fired next': Texas university, legislative leaders decry DEI ban layoffs

A sign for the University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas and UT Austin have both announced layoffs this month in response to Senate Bill 17, the ban on DEI programs in public universities and colleges.

University professors and state legislative leaders say mass layoffs at the University of Texas at Dallas and UT Austin because of the state's new law prohibiting DEI offices in public colleges are having a "chilling effect."

Earlier this week UT Dallas announced it's shuttering the new Office of Campus Resources and Support and eliminating about 20 related jobs in order to comply with Senate Bill 17. The announcement came a week after UT Austin confirmed it was laying off 66 staff members for the same reason.

"We don't really know who's going to be fired next," said Brian Evans, incoming Texas Conference president of the American Association of University Professors. "And for what reason? I mean, these are staff legally working. ... I hope it is the last mass firing, but we're concerned it's not the last."

Evans was speaking after a press conference Wednesday put on by the Texas AAUP, Texas Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP.

"We're really worried," Evans continued. "Also, students were fired. We're just concerned this is going to be the start of something."

UTD President Richard Benson said in August that no one would lose a job because of SB 17. In a message announcing the layoffs, however, he said since making “several organizational changes” to comply with the law, “we have continued to evaluate our SB 17 response and how to realign many of the programs impacted by the legislation.”

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, who authored the bill, sent a letter last month to Texas university systems requiring them to submit documentation of how they're complying with the law ahead of a May legislative hearing.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement that the mass layoffs at UT Austin were "issued in haste" in response to Creighton's letter. Speaking Wednesday, he said assurances were made during the last legislative session that such layoffs wouldn't happen.

"This was a breach of trust," he said.

Employees at UTD whose jobs are being eliminated can apply for other roles at the school.

Bill Zeeble is KERA’s education reporter. Got a tip? Email Bill at You can follow him on X @bzeeble.

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Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.