University of Florida eliminates all DEI-related positions

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

The move comes nearly a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bill that largely prohibited the state’s public colleges and universities from spending federal or state money on DEI initiatives. Pursuant to that law, the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System of Florida, also voted to ban state spending about such programs in public universities.

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

The university is just the latest school in the state to eliminate DEI programs. Both the University of North Florida and Florida International University have already eliminated or begun eliminating such programs.

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

Universities across the country have greatly expanded diversity programs in recent decades amid concerns about underrepresentation on campus. DEI supporters have said the initiatives are a good way to foster inclusion and help students of all backgrounds succeed on campus.

But more recently, DEI efforts have become the center of a culture war and part of a conservative fight against “wokeness.” Critics say the programs are discriminatory toward those who may be excluded in an effort to increase representation of other groups and that they aim to promote left-wing ideas about gender and race.

Lower Florida regulationState universities are prohibited from using government funds to “promote” DEI initiatives, which are defined as “any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies people on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and promotes differential or preferential treatment of people on the basis of said classification.”

On Friday, the University of Florida said it would reallocate the approximately $5 million in previously reported funding for DEI expenses to a faculty hiring fund.

The university added that laid-off employees will receive the equivalent of 12 weeks’ pay. He encouraged them to apply for different positions within the school, saying they would receive “expedited consideration.”

“The University of Florida is, and always will 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 viewpoints, we will continue to foster a community of trust and respect for every member of Gator Nation.”

State conservatives praised the university’s decision.

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

Supporters of DEI programs lamented the university’s move.

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

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