On Wednesday afternoon, University of North Florida students came together to support the LGBTQ Center by waving rainbow flags. In Tallahassee, 175 miles away, the Florida Board of Governors convened as the students’ protests echoed across the school, regulating diversity, just the thing they had been protesting.
In particular, state and federal funding for diversity initiatives and programs can no longer be used by public colleges. The approval followed a year-long discussion about diversity’s role in higher education, which was framed as a component of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “war on woke.”
UNF sent out an email announcing the phase-down of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its diversity centers, just hours after the Board of Governors approved the regulation. President Moez Limayem’s email states that the Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Intercultural Center, and Interfaith Center are all included in the action.
According to Marlo Crosby, vice president of UNF Students for a Democratic Society, an activist group formed by students on campus, “It is sad that the road to the end is starting today.”
That being said, the choice was not unanticipated. Many UNF academics and staff members have been waiting impatiently for a final policy from the state legislature that would formally implement Senate Bill 266 for months.
The statute, which was passed in the middle of the previous year, stated explicitly that institutions could not use any funding for activities or programs related to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or “social or political activism.” The board’s regulation from Wednesday, which is based on the law, provides schools with more detailed instructions and defines those terms.
“Any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals based on race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals based on such classification” is one definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Even if the guidelines are officially enacted, it may take several months before they take full effect as the institution needs to decide whose workers and resources would be affected and how best to reallocate those resources to comply.
On Wednesday, January 24, 2024, students from the University of North Florida will demonstrate in the Student Union, demanding support for the university’s LGBTQ Center and other diversity initiatives. | Today in Jacksonville, Carter Mudgett
State institutions “may not expend any state or federal funds” to support, encourage, or maintain any campus events or programs that promote DEI and political or social activity, according to the regulation’s wording.
During Wednesday afternoon’s public comment period, a few people expressed worries about the regulation’s potential impact on student groups, which get funding from student fees. Vice Chair Alan Levine later stated that the regulation permitted student fees.
The Board of Governors’ decision was made one week after the Board of Education enacted comparable regulations outlawing inclusion, equity, and diversity in Florida’s public universities. DeSantis has achieved a major victory, as he keeps his promise to eliminate funding for any DEI programs at public colleges that he pledged nearly precisely a year ago.
“Although it may seem like a solitary battle, as we witnessed today, it is a widely supported battle that we shall persist in for as long as possible, as it is essential to our survival on all fronts,” Crosby remarked.
The worst concerns of many students were confirmed by the UNF president’s communication on Wednesday night. The precise future of diversity programs is unknown, even though the Board of Governors regulation has made things more obvious.
“We want UNF to be a place where hate has no place and where everyone feels safe and welcomed. To assure success for every member of our campus community, we will assess and enhance resources as needed this semester, and we will start looking for ways to incorporate UNF’s ideals into everything we do,” stated President Limayem.