JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A poll of more than 800 students, and a handful of faculty, staff and others, at the University of North Florida showed overwhelming approval of the institution’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, programs and courses.
The survey, provided to News4JAX by someone affiliated with the university, asked hundreds of students about their level of approval or disapproval of these classes being offered at the university, whether they believe the courses indoctrinate students or are discriminatory in any way.
The results showed overwhelming support for the classes and programs’ availability at the university, -- as well as a strong rejection of the idea that they indoctrinate students or discriminate against any of them.
The poll results come as DEI courses and programs have been a target of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to be planning a 2024 campaign for president. The Republican governor has claimed that such programs are a drain on university resources and impose an agenda on people.
A UNF professor has rejected the governor’s claims, calling the crusade a “political stunt” and saying that there is no evidence to support the idea that the courses and programs indoctrinate students into any particular ideology through mere study.
“The entire case for these bills and these reforms to higher education hasn’t really been backed up by any comprehensive evidence,” said professor Nick Seabrook, the chair of the university’s Political Science and Public Administration department.
The survey asked about the educational value of certain optional classes offered by the university, including ‘Sex, Race and Class (SYG2013),’ ‘Race, Gender, and Politics (PUP2312),’ ‘Introduction to Diversity in Education (EDF2085),’ and ‘Introduction to Anthropology (ANT2000).”
An overwhelming majority of the respondents who identified that they had taken those specific courses said they were ‘very valuable,’ with a handful saying they were not valuable at all.
The survey also asked respondents about university programs including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Intercultural Center, the Interfaith Center, the LGBTQ+ Center and the Women’s Center. For each of those programs, respondents answered, with a significant two-thirds majority, that the programs have positively impacted their college experience.
Marlo Cosby is the vice president of UNF’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a group that has been heavily critical of the governor’s stance on DEI initiatives.
“We’re tired of our education being filtered through the lens of politicians that don’t actually walk the campus that we do, don’t live the lives that we do and don’t learn the things that we are,” Cosby told News4JAX. “I think that they should just let us learn what we wish to learn, and what we do with information is up to us.”
News4JAX also spoke with UNF Student Body President Nathaniel Rodefer.
“When we talk about events of indoctrination or discrimination against students, students really aren’t reporting having those experiences,” Rodefer said. “What he’s alleging is happening at higher education in these institutions isn’t what’s happening at UNF, and that’s also being sustained by student opinion.”
Rate the extent to which you approve or disapprove of these classes being offered at UNF: 669 responses
- Strongly Approve = 73%
- Somewhat Approve = 6%
- Neither Approve nor Disapprove = 13%
- Somewhat Disapprove = 3%
- Strongly Disapprove = 5%
Do you feel that these courses indoctrinate students?: 670 responses
- Definitely not = 59%
- Probably not = 14%
- Might or might not = 14%
- Probably yes = 6%
- Definitely yes = 7%
Do you feel that any of these courses are discriminatory toward students?: 672 responses
- Definitely not = 66%
- Probably not = 14%
- Might or might not = 11%
- Probably yes = 4%
- Definitely yes = 5%
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the removal of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming and coursework?: 665 responses
- Strongly agree = 6%
- Agree = 3%
- Neither agree nor disagree = 11%
- Disagree = 10%
- Strongly disagree = 70%
Of the respondents, 55% identified as female, 29% identified as male, 10% identified as non-binary and 6% declined to answer this question.