University of Florida Fires All DEI Staff, Reallocates $5 Million DEI Fund

The University of Florida has fired its DEI staff, dissolved DEI positions, and is reallocating its $5 million DEI budget for other purposes.
University of Florida Fires All DEI Staff, Reallocates $5 Million DEI Fund
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the signing of the state's universal school choice bill at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, on March 27, 2023. (Courtesy of the Florida Governor's Office)
Tom Ozimek

The University of Florida announced that it’s firing all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) staff in order to comply with new state rules that prohibit DEI-related expenditures in the state’s college system.

Officials at the University of Florida announced the decision in a March 1 administrative memo, which indicates that the educational institution “has closed the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors.”

The firings are motivated by the introduction of a new rule in January that restricts the allocation of public funds for DEI initiatives within Florida’s college system.

The Florida Board of Education, which introduced the new rule, said in a statement that the move would “ensure that taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI on Florida’s 28 state college campuses.”

The University of Florida memo says that the people impacted by the DEI-related firings will get 12 weeks of pay. They are also “allowed and encouraged” to apply for different positions at the university, with officials promising “expedited consideration” and fast-tracking of interviews.

In addition to the firings and the halting of DEI-related contracts with vendors, the University of Florida will also reallocate its roughly $5 million DEI budget into a faculty recruitment fund.

“The University of Florida is—and will always be—unwavering in our commitment to universal human dignity,” the memo states. “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.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reacted to news of the DEI-related changes at the University of Florida in a post on X.

“Florida is where DEI goes to die,” wrote Mr. DeSantis, who has been a vocal critic of DEI and related initiatives.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative student movement, called attention to the University of Florida’s move and encouraged other states to take similar actions.

“Conservatives are finally fighting back. Every red state must follow suit as soon as humanly possible. This is the way,” Mr. Kirk wrote in a post on X.

Board of Education Curbs DEI Funding

On Jan. 17, the Florida Board of Education adopted a new rule limiting the use of public funds for DEI-focused programs, activities, and policies in the state’s college system.

The rule defines DEI 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.”

The rule change bans institutions within the Florida college system institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that “categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment” or generally meet the state’s definition of DEI.

“Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said in a statement.

“These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society,” he added.

The affected colleges include Valencia College, Seminole State College of Florida, Polk State College, Palm Beach State College, Lake-Sumter State College, Eastern Florida State College, Daytona State College, and the College of Central Florida.

Mr. DeSantis has vowed to reform higher education across the state while condemning controversial programs such as DEI and related ideas and policies such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) guidelines for businesses, and critical rate theory (CRT) taught in schools.

Both lawmakers and experts have expressed concern that programs teaching CRT and promoting social justice activism focused on race and gender in schools are divisive and harmful.

Iowa Takes Axe to DEI

Much like Florida’s targeting of DEI programs in higher education, the Iowa Board of Regents voted in November to slash DEI-focused initiatives at universities, scaling back or eliminating them entirely.

The nine-member board voted on Nov. 16 at a meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to adopt a series of 10 recommendations (with one amendment) targeting DEI programs.

While the adopted recommendations don’t prohibit any DEI initiatives that would impede the schools’ accreditation or compliance with existing rules, they go a long way toward dismantling them.

One of the newly adopted recommendations calls on the universities to develop policies prohibiting the consideration of race and other protected class characteristics in admissions.

Another urges the elimination of any DEI functions at DEI offices that aren’t necessary for compliance or accreditation, while calling on services in other divisions that support diversity or multicultural affairs to be available to all students, not just select groups.

Yet another adopted recommendation calls on Iowa’s public universities to ensure that no employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is required to submit a statement of support for DEI. Also, schools should take reasonable steps to ensure that no employees or students are forced to disclose their pronouns.

Meanwhile, a recent report revealed that many U.S. community colleges have hopped on the DEI bandwagon, with an overwhelming majority of those surveyed having some form of DEI presence.

The report from The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy was based on a dataset of degree-granting public or private community colleges that enroll at least 1,000 students, which amounted to 328 schools, or roughly 22 percent of all community colleges in the United States.

The report shows that DEI initiatives of some kind were present at 81 percent of the community colleges reviewed—and the bigger the institution, the more likely it was to embrace DEI.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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