Dioslyn Oliva | Staff Writer
Our university’s Board of Trustees has no choice but to enforce Tallahassee’s new higher education laws. As a student, I hope they implement these policies with the student body in mind. But how will they do it?
Senate Bill 266 prohibits state universities and colleges from spending federal and state funds on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. FIU has an entire division dedicated to DEI, which was recently formed in the summer of 2020.
This division supervises a variety of DEI programs and university initiatives such as the Equity Action Initiative aimed at improving the climate and reality of equality and belonging at the university. Apart from this, many of FIU’s institutional goals as described by the Next Horizon 2025 strategic plan are aimed at creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for minorities at the university.
It’s safe to say this new law makes it a lot harder for the university to fulfill its goals. Many student organizations and clubs like the Black Student Union or any of the multicultural organizations in Greek life are safe from this new law since they’re funded by student fees handled by the Student Government Association. On the other hand, there are a plethora of offices and centers like the Office of Social Justice and Inclusion, or the Center for Women and Gender Studies that are in jeopardy.
OSJI and the Pride Center receive some funding from the allocation of student fees on behalf of SGA. The concern is that the centers and offices won’t be able to fund their employees as their paychecks are funded by the state. The law explicitly states that a “Florida college system institution may not expend any state or federal funds to promote, support or maintain programs that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.”
To maintain and support a program there needs to be employees. The BOT is required to enforce this new law but faces discretion on how to do so considering the law’s ambiguity. If they were to follow the law as the governor intends it, they’d have to fire dozens of employees or place them in new departments.
It would be a similar situation to the gutting of New College earlier this year.
Yet, any opposition by the BOT would put FIU’s state funding at risk. Apart from affecting DEI programming, the law also affects academic freedoms, which our BOT says they aim to protect in their bylaws.
I understand our Trustees are in a difficult situation but they should try their best to remain loyal to the people they serve, the students.
The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.