The University of Houston will officially shutter its Center for Diversity and Inclusion and its LGBTQ Resource Center at the end of the month, The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday, in an effort to comply with a new anti-DEI law. It is one of the first universities to shutter an LGBTQ+ student center in response to such legislation.
Senate Bill 17, which Texas governor Greg Abbott signed two months ago, bans, among other things, college and university offices or departments that offer “trainings, programs, or activities designed or implemented in reference to race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” It officially goes into effect in January.
The university plans to open a new Center for Student Advocacy and Community, which will focus on student success, mentorship and summer bridge programs.
“This center will make available wide-ranging advocacy, a support network for both undergraduate and graduate students, comprehensive basic needs services and resources, and facilitate a variety of events and programs to foster student success, achievement, and community building,” Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Daniel M. Maxwell told The Houston Chronicle.
Students expressed frustration that the LGBTQ Resource Center, which they considered a safe and welcoming haven on campus, would be shutting down.
“It’s more than just a building, it’s the heart of the community,” one student, the leader of an LGBTQ student organization, told The Houston Chronicle. “The second you walk through those doors [at the LGBTQ Resource Center] you have an army of staff that is going to fight for you if someone discriminates against you. You have people who care.”
The news comes about a week after the institution prematurely posted closure notices outside both the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the LGBTQ Resource Center. At the time, UH said it was working on “changes to UH System policies” related to SB17 that would “necessarily impact” both centers.