UT-Austin students protest to defend diversity programs
Austin, TX – On Tuesday afternoon, September 19, a group of students gathered on Speedway and 21st Street at the University of Texas at Austin to rally in defense of campus diversity programs. Since the signing of Texas Senate Bill 17 in June, diversity, equity, and inclusion offices have been banned at public universities, and the UT administration has still not taken any action to protect diversity programs on campus.
Participants in the protest included students from Austin Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Student Alliance. One of the speakers, SDS member Jake Holtzman, said, “We are out here to protest against the ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion offices in Texas. This could affect programs and centers that are important to student needs, such as the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center. Yet President Hartzell and other upper administrators have stayed silent and given nothing but empty comments, claiming they support us, but refusing to take action.”
Holtzman continued, “We don’t want to hear the administration simply say, ‘Thank you for sharing your message, we support you.’ We want promises for actual action steps to protect diversity programs.”
After gathering for a brief rally, students marched down to the UT Engineering Education and Research Center to confront the school’s president, Jay Hartzell, who was delivering a state of the university address. Although this was a public event, the protesters were met at the door by administrators who claimed they were not allowed inside the auditorium. The administrators told students that they sent out an email about a required RSVP, however, none of the student organizations present received this email.
The protesters were forced to remain outside the auditorium, but stood their ground, and continued to hold their signs that had messages such as, “Defend diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “Support student rights!”