AUSTIN (KXAN) — This summer, some University of Texas at Austin student leaders are starting to look for ways to make sure their campus is inclusive when everyone gets back from break.

This comes after a new law was passed that bans diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices, staff and initiatives at public universities and colleges.

“When DEI is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” a group of UT students chanted outside of the capitol, just steps away from where lawmakers voted to ban college DEI initiatives.

UT’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), led a small protest on Tuesday, just getting started with its plans for a workaround to move forward with DEI work.

“There is a greater coalition of UT students for DEI that we do some work with,” Jules Lattimore with SDS said.

According to Lattimore, that coalition is made up of cultural groups.

“We reached out to the Black Student Alliance,” Lattimore said.

First, SDS is trying to spread awareness about the new DEI law in Texas, so its members can come up with collaborative ways to keep those initiatives around.

UT students pass out fliers about the DEI ban outside of the capitol. (KXAN Photo/Timothy Holcomb)
UT students pass out fliers about the DEI ban outside of the capitol. (KXAN Photo/Timothy Holcomb)

“Workaround in terms of language to keep things like the multicultural engagement center, gender and sexuality center open and keep DEI-related staff from losing their jobs,” Jake Holzman, president of UT’s SDS, said.

Holzman said SDS has been watching what’s going on in Florida. It became the first state to ban DEI initiatives. Holzman said he hopes some of their work will help his organization craft a solutions-driven plan.

“SDS locally has been really inspired by the Tampa Five,” Holzman said.

That’s what a group of students from the SDS Chapter at the University of South Florida is being called. The group faced backlash for protesting DEI initiatives. It has been working with other students and outside activist organizations to try to keep efforts alive.

“Our hope is that we can bring this back to campus and make demands for what our university can do,” Holzman said.

The college DEI ban goes into effect in Florida in September and in January 2024 in Texas.

Since this is all so new, there’s no way to tell if students’ efforts to maintain DEI are working or will work yet.

UT’s president said, in part, in a June memo to the university:

“We are actively working to understand…the new legal framework, and how the UT system will implement its oversight under the new legislation. While I can imagine there is uncertainty and anxiety regarding the future, I ask for your patience as we begin this work and await further guidance based on UT system policy later this summer.”

Jay Hartzell, UT Austin president