Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023

As you may know, the Texas State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 17, which was signed into law and prohibits public institutions of higher education from maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion offices, and related activities. Our leadership team has been working hard to make sure we continue to support our diverse student body, faculty, and staff in our values-based environment. 

Today I am sharing with you our plans as they currently stand. Our efforts are centered around working with faculty, staff, and student groups to make sure we support our students’ success and academic achievement. We will keep the community informed of any further changes. 

Joanne Woodard is retiring from her position as Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access effective Oct. 1, 2023. Joanne joined UNT in 2015 and we are grateful for her service and dedication to our students, faculty, staff, and alumni during this time. Following Joanne’s retirement, the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access will be dissolved, and some units within that division will be transferred to other divisions.

Senior administrators and I are doing our best to create a plan that ensures we will continue to support all our community members’ needs and take advantage of the talented staff members currently within the division by working to reassign them throughout the university in ways that improve our academic community. The changes we are making have been undertaken with the guidance of the UNT System’s Office of General Counsel to ensure we are adhering to state and federal law as a state institution.

Effective Aug. 13, the offices of Title IX, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Affirmative Action will move to the Division of Finance and Administration. This allows those offices to continue to work with autonomy as they investigate our community’s adherence to federal and state laws as well as university policy.

In addition, we are thoughtfully considering how we reorganize the Multicultural Center, Pride Alliance, and all related programs that support our students’ engagement and success. This process will be led by Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth With. Working together we will craft mission statements and operational structures that comply with SB17 and federal law and ensure that the Division of Student Affairs provides the support all our students need. 

We also will do our best to take care of our staff members by retaining them in opportunities throughout the university as possible. As a university committed to the education of Texans, we will remain steadfast in living our values and serving our diverse community. We know that we are better together, and together is how we will move forward, now and in the future.

Neal Smatresk 
UNT President