The University of Houston appeared to be shutting down its LGBTQ Resource Center and Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion after paper notices appeared in front of both offices stating that they would be disbanded in accordance with Senate Bill 17. The bill, signed by Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, two months ago, bans diversity, equity and inclusion offices at public colleges and universities.
But in a statement to Inside Higher Ed, a spokesperson for the university and the larger University of Houston System, Shawn Lindsey, said that the signs had been posted prematurely and that both offices are currently still in operation. According to the statement, the university system is working to comply with SB 17 and is developing a “full implementation plan” to present to the Board of Regents later this month.
“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,” the statement read.
Lindsey noted that Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was moved to a new space on Tuesday, the same day the notices were posted. The notices stayed up for almost two days before they were taken down and, in the case of the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, replaced with a sign directing people to the new location.
A photograph of the note in front of the LGBTQ Resource Center was posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, by Davis Mendoza Darusman, a member of the university's LGBTQ Alumni Association board. The message read simply: “In Accordance with Texas Senate Bill 17, the LGBTQ Resource Center has been disbanded.”
Darusman criticized the university for allowing students to learn about the potential closure through such signs.
“UH administration had months to come up with a plan, release an official statement and let queer [Cougars] know this was coming around the corner. But we’re a week out from classes starting and what they get is a piece of paper slapped on a wall,” he said. “I was joking today that you don’t need a communications degree from this university to know that communicating this potential closure to your students ASAP is common courtesy. And I should know that, because I have a communications degree from this university.”
Despite the university’s statement, Darusman said he anticipates the LGBTQ Resource Center will be closed, since it fits one of SB 17’s definitions of a DEI office: a unit within an institution of higher education “established for the purpose of conducting trainings, programs, or activities designed or implemented in reference to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
For now, the websites for both the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion remain online and list events scheduled to take place after the semester starts on Aug. 21.