UTD’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is dismantled as of Dec. 31 and will now be replaced by the Office of Campus Resources and Support, or OCRS, in compliance with SB 17.
Under SB 17, universities in Texas are now banned from enforcing diversity statements in hiring procedures or providing faculty and staff with training on diversity and inclusion. In between legislative sessions, universities must also attest to the legislature that they are fully compliant, according to the Texas Tribune.
In place of ODEI, UTD has established the OCRS which was created Jan. 1, 2024, and is hosting its first event on Jan. 18, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, featuring Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall as guest speaker. The ODEI office used to encompass the Galerstein Gender Center, AccessAbility Resource Center and Multicultural Center. The GGC is now the Galerstein Community Center and the Multicultural Center is now the Comet Culture Center, Raul Hinojosa said in a December SG meeting. The Life Transitions Closet will still be accessible to students going through life transitions, but it’s unclear what items might be prohibited from being distributed (e.g. chest binders). The Community Center will be the centralized unit for all cultural celebrations and Heritage Month programs including Black History Month and Women’s History Month. The AccessAbility Resource Center will still be available to students with disabilities following federal law.
Diversity programs and scholarships that are scrapped as of Jan. 1 include the Diversity Scholars Program, Women Leading in Diversity Program, Diversity Awards Program, and Diversity Week. Identity-based support groups and community-building activities that have been removed include Q-TEA – an LGBT support group previously under the GCC.
The dismantling of ODEI has impacted numerous organizations on campus, including the African Student Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. Alumnus Nathalia Patricio, former president of LULAC, said she hopes the organization will continue working with the national LULAC council to build a voice for the organization.
“I’m hoping that a lot will stay the same, we don’t know what changes will be made to enforce this law,” Patricio said. “But we are hoping a lot of our events can go through the national LULAC council, separate from UTD.”
Biomedical engineering senior Onyedi Ololo, president of the ASU, said how coming together in times like these will strengthen communities’ support for one another.
“I think a big thing is actively working to bring ourselves together,” Ololo said. “The Black organizations have gotten together to form the Black Organization Alliance to continue contributing to diversity on campus to help and to support each other.”
Vice President of UTD ASU Omolere Aliu said that the dismantling of ODEI might change the types of relationships the organization has with advisers and staff members.
“It does bring worry about how our administration will be treating us as a social organization and an organization of marginal identity,” Aliu said.
ODEI was an important resource that provided ASU with the means for planning socials, outreach coordination and expanding their impact on campus.
“Resources we’ve been given have included words of advice, words of encouragement and their presence,” Ololo said. “They also usually share their resources with us and help us communicate with other staff of color.”
Ololo said he wants ASU to continue to maintain a strong presence as an organization.
“We’re still here to educate people, to promote our community no matter what,” Ololo said. “We refuse to forget who we are and assimilate, we refuse to let go of our culture.”