University of Florida Eliminates All D.E.I.-Related Positions - The World News

University of Florida Eliminates All D.E.I.-Related Positions

The University of Florida has terminated all positions associated with diversity, equity and inclusion at the school in compliance with new state regulations, according to a university memo released on Friday.

The move comes almost a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bill that largely banned the state’s public universities and colleges from spending federal or state money on D.E.I. initiatives. In accordance with that law, Florida’s Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System of Florida, also voted to prohibit state spending on such programs at public universities.

The University of Florida’s terminations included closing the office of the chief diversity officer and halting all D.E.I. contracts with outside vendors, according to the announcement on Friday. Thirteen full-time positions were eliminated, along with administrative appointments for 15 faculty members, a spokeswoman for the university said in an email.

The university is just the latest school in the state to eliminate D.E.I. programs. Both the University of North Florida and Florida International University have already removed or started to phase out such programs.

Last year, Florida became one of the first states to enact laws restricting or eliminating D.E.I. initiatives. That prompted other Republican-led states to follow suit, including Texas, where a ban on D.E.I. initiatives and offices at publicly funded universities and colleges took effect on Jan. 1. In Utah, the governor last month signed a bill paring back D.E.I. programs at state universities and in state government. And the Alabama Legislature is considering similar legislation.

Universities across the country have vastly expanded diversity programs in recent decades amid concerns over underrepresentation on campus. Supporters of D.E.I. have said that the initiatives are a good way to foster inclusion and that they help students from all backgrounds succeed on campus.

But more recently, D.E.I. efforts have become the center of a culture war and part of a fight by conservatives against “wokeism.” Critics say that the programs are discriminatory to those who may be left out in an effort to boost representation of other groups and that they aim to advance left-wing ideas about gender and race.

Under Florida’s regulation, state universities are barred from using government funds to “advocate” D.E.I. initiatives, which is defined as “any program, campus activity or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation, and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.”

On Friday, the University of Florida said that it would reallocate the approximately $5 million in funds previously reported for D.E.I. expenses into a faculty recruitment fund.

The university added that the terminated employees will receive 12 weeks’ worth of pay. It encouraged them to apply for different positions within the school, saying they would receive “expedited consideration.”

“The University of Florida is — and will always be — unwavering in our commitment to universal human dignity,” school officials said. “As we educate students by thoughtfully engaging a wide range of ideas and views, we will continue to foster a community of trust and respect for every member of the Gator Nation.”

Conservatives in the state praised the decision by the university.

“Florida is where DEI goes to die,” Mr. DeSantis wrote on social media. Senator Rick Scott also praised the school’s president, Ben Sasse, on social media. He said Mr. Sasse, a former U.S. senator of Nebraska, “continues to do all the right things” at the university. “Every university should follow his lead,” Mr. Scott said.

Those who support D.E.I. programs lamented the university’s move.

State Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson, a Democrat who represents Gainesville, said in a statement that she was “stunned but not surprised” by the elimination of the D.E.I. staff at her alma mater.

And Nikki Fried, the chairwoman for the Democratic Party in Florida, warned that the impact of the decision “will be felt for generations.”

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