Diversity Defenders: Students Stand Strong for Diversity Amidst Florida’s Shift

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In a stark contrast of events, students at the University of North Florida (UNF) rallied in support of the LGBTQ Center while, miles away in Tallahassee, the Florida Board of Governors imposed new regulations restricting state universities from allocating funds for diversity programs. The decision, part of Governor Ron DeSantis’s “war on woke,” has stirred debates and led to the announcement that UNF’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with its diversity centers, will be phased out.

The Board of Governors’ approval, following a yearlong debate spurred by Senate Bill 266, prohibits the use of state and federal funds for programs related to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “social or political activism.” The newly defined terms explicitly outline restrictions on activities classifying individuals based on various factors, including race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

UNF President Moez Limayem’s email confirmed the phasing out of diversity centers, including the Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, LGBTQ Center, and Women’s Center. The announcement acknowledged the anticipated impact of the state regulations, signaling a change in the university’s approach to diversity initiatives.

Despite the clarity provided by the Board of Governors’ regulation, the full effect is expected to unfold gradually as the university assesses the resources and employees affected, along with the necessary adjustments for compliance. The regulation explicitly states that state universities are prohibited from using state or federal funds to promote, support, or maintain programs advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as political or social activism.

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During a public comment period, concerns were raised about the potential impact on student clubs funded by student fees. Vice Chair Alan Levine clarified that student fees were exempt from the regulation, providing a measure of relief to those worried about the future of student-led initiatives.

This decision by the Board of Governors echoes similar rules implemented by the Board of Education for Florida’s public colleges, marking a significant victory for Governor DeSantis. The move aligns with his commitment made a year ago to defund all diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at state universities, contributing to a broader national conversation on the role of diversity programs in higher education.

As UNF grapples with the consequences of these regulations, the uncertainty surrounding the future of diversity initiatives remains. Students and activists on campus express their commitment to continuing the fight for inclusivity, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the university community.

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