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Published on June 18, 2024
University of Texas at Austin Cuts Nearly 25% of Communications Staff Amid Administrative ControversySource: Unsplash / Alexander Williams

The University of Texas at Austin is moving forward with layoffs, targeting nearly two dozen employees, amidst a period of significant turmoil. According to KVUE, the cuts are hitting the communications and marketing department, with a reported 19 to 20 employees being shown the door, representing about approximately 25% of the department's staff.

Earlier shakeups had seen more than 600 faculty members pen a letter of "no confidence" in the University's President, Jay Hartzell. The letter was spurred by, among other grievances, the elimination of 40 staff members in line with Senate Bill 17's ban on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices in public universities. Strikingly, the university has been the stage for vehement protest, calling in state troopers to disperse what was intended as peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrations, resulting in over 130 arrests. These actions, as reported by MySA, drew criticism from students and faculty, while earning praise from some of Texas's most conservative leaders, including Governor Gregg Abbott.

UT's Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, Emily Reagan, identified "crises" as the chief driver behind the layoffs. In a June 3 email, which was obtained by KVUE, Reagan stated, "It is critical for our central marketing and communications function to focus intently on managing reputational issues and crises." She also mentioned the university's intent to launch a nationwide hunt for a new vice president capable of bolstering the university's crisis management.

A spokesperson for the university declined to speak on the matter, citing an ongoing "restructure" within the department. Affected employees, as they were informed via a Zoom call, are expected to remain in their positions until Aug. 31 and have been encouraged to seek new employment during work hours. The layoffs, which followed a semester marked by turmoil, have underscored ongoing tensions over university policies and the handling of campus events.