Axing of DEI and OSJI leaves minority students in the cold

Minorities in Florida are already feeling extremely unsafe and unprotected- this newest regulation may be the breaking point for many.| Mariantonia Mejia, PantherNOW

Mariantonia Mejia | Staff Writer

Minority rights in Florida, particularly in higher education, are under attack yet again with a new set of regulations. 

On Jan. 17, the Florida Board of Education officially passed regulations that prohibit the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at state universities.

This lines up with Senate Bill 266, signed last spring by Governor Ron DeSantis.

FIU’s implementation of this regulation has been swift and immediate, with the websites for both the Office of Social Justice and Inclusion (OSJI) and the Department of DEI announcing on Jan. 26 that the programs have been shut down. 

The responsibilities of the Department of DEI will be shifted to multiple other departments, such as the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Access. OSJI’s functions will be transferred to organizations such as the Pride and the Women’s Center. 

The link to FIU’s DEI program or OSJI now only leads to a brief statement about their closing or an error page.

The sheer impracticality of this dispersal of duties cannot be overlooked. 

Students who may have relied on the departments of DEI or OSJI for certain federally protected programs and initiatives will now be left scrambling to figure out which specific duty has been transferred to which office. 

This regulation, though terrifying, is entirely unsurprising since it follows the seemingly never-ending downward spiral within the Florida legislature, caused, in large part, by DeSantis and his ultra-conservative colleagues. 

Minorities in Florida are already feeling extremely unsafe and unprotected – this newest regulation may be the breaking point for many. 

Discriminatory laws like these will not only contribute to isolating minority Floridians who do not have the choice to leave but also cause them to avoid Florida at all costs. 

We have already seen examples of this with multiple civil rights groups, including the NAACP issuing statements in 2023 that Florida is unsafe for minorities including black and queer people. 

Though lawmakers claim that they’re aiming to prevent “radical indoctrination that promotes division”, this blatantly ignores the fact of implicit bias which often prevents people of color or other minorities from getting the same opportunities as their white, cishet or male counterparts. 

It is because of these pervasive issues that programs like DEI and OSJI need to exist to ensure that we do not allow our institutions to quietly discriminate because of a lack of oversight.

FIU, unsurprisingly, is among the first of the 12 public Florida universities to instantly and seemingly without hesitation shut down their DEI and OSJI offices. 

As of Feb. 5,  the DEI offices in colleges such as the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida, among others, remain standing. 

The speed at which this regulation was enacted, coupled with the utter lack of vocal condemnation for it by anyone within FIU’s administration speaks volumes. 

Though, of course, FIU is not solely to blame for the response to legislation, it’s incredibly telling that the administration refuses to put up even the slightest bit of resistance or have the common courtesy to denounce the laws, even if they have to follow them. 

The precedent that this elimination sets is a truly dangerous one. 

With this, we, an international university, are telling our international students that diversity within our population does not matter to us- a message that has become increasingly clear following the hiring pause.

We are telling our students of color that ensuring that they get equal opportunities is not our top priority, and that we are willing to allow discriminatory bias to go unchecked. 

The ripple effect that this will have cannot be overstated, and we cannot be surprised when minority or international student enrollment numbers drop. 

It seems that despite the empty platitudes claiming that we are committed to “accessibility and equal opportunity”, FIU is doing nothing to ensure minority communities that they are welcome here. 


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.

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