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UH LGBTQ and DEI centers still operating amid new law banning programs at publicly funded schools

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Signs announcing the disbanding of the LGBTQ and DEI center at the University of Houston have some wondering what may be next following the passing of SB17.

A law that bans publicly funded colleges and universities from having programs and offices promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

On Thursday afternoon, the spokesperson at UH said the offices are still open, and the signs were prematurely posted.

Eyewitness news is told both offices have relocated and are still operating as the university simultaneously creates a plan to meet compliance set to be approved by a board.

“I knew that this bill had been passed, and I knew that at some point, the consequences were going to be shown, right? And it’s just so bewildering to see that this is what is happening in 2023,” President of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus Austin Diaz Ruiz said.

He feels we’re taking steps back as a society.

The communications team at the university sent us the following statement in regard to the situation:

To comply with SB17, there will be changes to UH System policies, and it will necessarily impact the UH Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and LGBTQ Resource Center and require a reconfiguration of departments, employees, and their scope of work. Implementation of SB17 is not final. We will continue to work with impacted units to ensure compliance while maintaining our focus on student success. Both offices have relocated but are still operating.

The UH System is in the process of creating a full implementation plan, which will be presented to the UH System Board of Regents later this month. As the policy takes shape, we will provide clear guidelines and resources to support our community through this transition. We value the academic, social and broader community benefits that arise from diverse campuses and our commitment to our entire university community has not changed.

The signage outside the DEI and LGBTQ offices was premature and posted without the full consultation and communication process we pride ourselves on. We understand the importance of keeping our community informed and will have details to share in the coming weeks.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Brandon Creighton. R-Conroe.

This is how he pitched it to his colleagues in April.

“SB 17 will return the focus on Texas campuses on harnessing the strength of our diversity and assuring everyone is treated equally and no one is excluded,” Creighton said during the session.

Folks like Ruiz said DEI isn’t about exclusion.

“These are offices that are not trying to erase white students or trying to take opportunities away from anybody…they’re just trying to uplift those that historically have not had access to those opportunities,” Ruiz said.

UH says this law will impact the centers in question, and they will need to reconfigure departments and the scope of work employees are on.

For updates on this story, follow Daniela Hurtado on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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