University of North Florida announces phase-out of LGBTQ+, Women’s, Interfaith Intercultural Centers

Update: The University of North Florida has announced the phase-out of all four diversity centers, including the LGBTQ+, Women’s, Interfaith, and Intercultural Centers due to new regulations on Prohibited Expenditures focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion approved by the Florida Board of Governors.

Below is the full statement released by UNF President Dr. Moex Limayem:

“Dear Osprey Community,I am writing this evening to share with you that Regulation 9.016 on Prohibited Expenditures was approved by the Florida Board of Governors today.The regulation relates to the new state law passed during last year’s legislative session (Senate Bill 266), prohibiting expenditures for programs and activities at state universities and colleges that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion or that promote or engage in political or social activism. As stated in previous messages, state universities have been awaiting this regulation from the BOG that provides key definitions and guidance on implementation.In accordance with the new law and the approval of this regulation, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its centers (the Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center) will now begin to be phased out. No staff members will lose their employment at UNF as a result of the closures of these centers. We are working with affected employees to establish new work assignments within the University at their current salary or above. Student clubs making up the Student Alliance for Inclusion and Diversity will remain active registered student organizations at UNF. We recognize there will be other questions that may arise related to the new law, and we will continue to keep you updated.Please know that as we implement these new changes, the University remains committed to ensuring that every member of our campus community is cared for and has the resources needed to be successful. Programs and a list of resources are offered through the Dean of Students’ Care Services. Also, the Counseling Center and Victim Advocacy Program are among other services available to students, while our Employee Assistance Program is available for faculty and staff. As always, the University community is encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion at eoi@unf.edu with any concerns regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation.Accountability. Integrity. Excellence. Civility and Culture of Care. These are UNF’s values and included in our Strategic Plan that was also approved by the BOG today. The plan reflects our priorities as a University and will guide our direction as we seek to become a destination of choice for students, faculty and staff. The values included in the plan bind us together and reflect how we treat one another. We want UNF to be a place where all people feel safe and welcome, and where there is no place for hate. This semester, we will begin seeking ways to reinforce UNF’s values in everything we do, and we will review and expand resources as necessary to ensure success for all members of our campus community.As we work to improve the UNF experience for all students, faculty and staff, we will seek your input. Together, we will shape an even stronger future for UNF.”

Original Story: The Florida Board of Governors voted to approve a new regulation that could result in the closure of the LGBTQ+ Center at the University of North Florida.

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The regulation implements a state law passed last year that prohibits colleges and universities from spending state and federal funds on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

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And it’s not just the LGBTQ Center that could be at risk.

The Women’s Center, the Interfaith Center, and the Intercultural Center were also identified in a list of programs potentially impacted by the new state law released by the university last year.

The LGBTQ+ Center likely has the most to lose though, with more than 70 percent of its nearly $200,000 annual budget coming in the form of state dollars.

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It’s not entirely clear yet what impact the new regulation might have though.

UNF told Action News Jax in a statement it is “awaiting that regulation before we take any action”.

Students gathered on UNF’s campus Wednesday to express their disapproval of the potential loss of the campus resources that promote diversity and inclusiveness.

“If this happens, [it] will cause a genuine unrest and fear in a lot of these marginalized groups and a lot of these resources have been used and constantly used for years, including the LGBTQ+ Center,” said UNF sophomore Sergio Sevieus.

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175 miles away in Tallahassee, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) addressed the board ahead of the vote, thanking members for following through with the will of the legislature, which has contended DEI initiatives promote a particular world view, rather than allowing for freedom of thought.

“We want real diversity of background. We want real diversity of thought, but what we don’t want is something that is antithetical to diversity of thought,” said Renner.

When the proposal came up just after 5:00 p.m., there was little discussion beyond a clarification that the rule doesn’t impact student organizations.

“There’s a specific exemption in the proposed regulation where student activity and service fees can be used. If a student government funds a student group that advocates for let’s say the Black Student Union, there’s no prohibition in this regulation from that happening,” said BOG Vice Chair Alan Levine.

The regulation passed with just two no votes.

Students at UNF we spoke with argued the potential impacts could go beyond the loss of the centers.

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Thomas Orsini contended by removing the resources, Florida leaders put their schools at risk of losing accreditation.

“Removing these beacons of diversity across our state, it’s just gonna limit potential, it’s going to limit access and it’s gonna cause a brain drain in Florida,” said Orsini.

We do expect to hear a final word from UNF on the ultimate fate of the four centers given the adoption of the regulation.

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Some students also floated the idea of looking for private funds to keep the centers running.

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