JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Professors and students are weighing in on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s plan to abolish DEI offices at Florida’s state colleges and universities.
DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. On Tuesday, the governor said he plans to eliminate funding for those initiatives as well as critical race theory initiatives at institutions of higher education.
News4JAX was at UNF on Wednesday and overheard students talking about the issue and they said they’d just had a class discussion about it.
While the governor said this about protecting students from indoctrination, a department head here said the government is offering a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.
The backlash to diversity efforts at state colleges and universities is now a rallying cry for Florida’s GOP.
“I think what it’ll be, there will be a statute the legislature will pass that will basically abolish those offices. I think that needs to be done. I don’t think it’s been a good use of money,” DeSantis said.
UNF professor Nick Seabrook, who is the chair of the university’s Political Science and Public Administration department said he thinks the proposal is a political stunt.
“The entire case for these bills and these reforms to higher education hasn’t really been backed up by any comprehensive evidence,” Seabrook said.
He noted fewer than 1% of Florida college and university students answered a state-commissioned survey last year about political bias in the classroom.
“The governor is saying he’s trying to avoid ideological indoctrination and just students, what’s your response to that?” News4JAX asked Seabrook.
“Well, my response to that is that that’s a perfectly fine goal. But a necessary first step is to identify that that kind of indoctrination is actually occurring on a widespread basis,” he responded.
In December, the governor’s office demanded every public college and university provide information about their staff, programs and campus activities related to DEI and critical race theory.
UNF responded with a list of 20 entities, including The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center, as well as four classes.
UNF freshman Nevaeh Wright says she doesn’t see these programs and classes as discriminatory or trying to impose ideology because no one has to join them but they’re also not exclusive.
“It’s making people that don’t feel included, have somewhere to go,” Wright said.
The list includes 20 programs and 25 positions which are in total supported by about $1.8 million in taxpayer dollars.
UNF student publication the Spinnaker notes that represents about half a percentage point of the university’s budget.
A spokesperson from UNF says it is reviewing the announcements made by the governor, but it doesn’t have further comments at this time.