UT Austin stops funding for Asian cultural graduation ceremonies amid DEI ban


The University of Texas at Austin (UT) has announced the discontinuation of funding for cultural graduation ceremonies, following a recently enacted state law banning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices.

About the decision: Earlier this month, UT Austin was forced to shut down its Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC) to comply with Senate Bill (SB) 17, a Texas state law that prohibits the operation of DEI offices in higher education institutions.

The closure of the MEC, which served as a hub for multicultural engagement and support services, left events like Black Graduation, Latinx Graduation and GraduAsian without institutional backing, reported the Daily Texan. This has also disrupted programs such as CultivAsian, Bloq Party, New Black Student Weekend, Adelante, Four Directions and Leadership Institutes.

Impact of SB 17: Signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, SB 17 mandates the closure of DEI offices and prohibits the establishment of DEI statements within higher education institutions across the state. The legislation, which came into effect on Jan. 1, has compelled institutions like UT Austin to reorganize or dismantle their diversity-focused initiatives.

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Other Texas universities are similarly forced to either shutter or significantly revamp their diversity-focused programs and offices. The University of Houston, for example, has chosen to establish a Center for Student Advocacy and Community as a way to navigate the changing legal landscape.

Community reaction and UT's response: UT Austin's decision to halt funding for cultural graduation ceremonies has sparked concerns among students and the broader university community. In response to inquiries from students and stakeholders, UT officials stated that they are exploring alternative arrangements to ensure that the 2024 graduates can still celebrate their achievements.

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