After a law banning Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies in higher education took effect, the University of Texas at Austin has announced it will be canceling its segregated “cultural graduations.” 

UT’s Center for Leadership and Learning director, Brandelyn Flunder, emailed students saying the university will no longer fund cultural graduations, including Black, Latinx, and GraduAsian graduations.

Senate Bill 17, which took effect in January, effectively prohibits Texas universities from hiring employees to “perform the duties” of a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) office and is supposed to block any promotion of policies, training, or activities “designed or implemented in reference to race, color, or ethnicity.”

Following the law going into effect, UT announced it would be closing its Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC), which impacted the various cultural graduations. 

According to The Daily Texan, the MEC’s closure also impacts the university’s welcome programs, including CultivAsian, Bloq Party, New Black Student Weekend, Adelante—geared toward Latin and Hispanic students—and Four Directions.

Although the MEC is closed and the university will no longer fund the graduations, in one of Flunder’s emails, she said the MEC is “working diligently to find an alternative home” for the graduations.

In another email, Flunder expressed that while students are still able to come into the MEC, they are not carrying out the various programs they used to offer. 

“Because you have been able to come into the space and see many of the staff, I understand that it likely feels that we are operating at status quo, but please make no mistake, while our doors remain open (for now, at least), our programs do not,” Flunder said in an email.

Although UT has closed down its MEC, Texas Scorecard previously reported that the university’s vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Dr. LaToya Smith, announced the diversity’s department would be renamed the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and said they plan to continue implementing pro-DEI principles. 

Additionally, other schools in the UT system have similarly changed their DEI department’s names and promised to continue their commitment to DEI goals. 

Meanwhile, Texas State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian) sent a letter to House Speaker Dade Phelan asking that “banning all race-based admissions, employment, and contracting practices in public universities, private universities that accept federal money, and all government entities” be studied by a House committee before the next legislative session. 

Brady Gray, President of Texas Family Project, told Texas Scorecard that he is “thankful that UT Austin has made the decision to end its discriminatory graduation practices. It is imperative that students, alumni, and supporters continue to hold universities accountable for woke policies.”

Texas Scorecard reached out to UT for comment but did not receive a response by publication. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.