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Opinion
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Guest Column
Florida is diverse, so don’t let Gov. DeSantis make our universities exclusionary | Column
History and common sense show us that diversity, equity and inclusion don’t happen on their own.
 
Students gathered near the Sudakoff Center at New College of Florida last month before a meeting of the new board of trustees. They made passionate speeches, sharing their experiences and hopes for an inclusive and diverse student body to continue.
Students gathered near the Sudakoff Center at New College of Florida last month before a meeting of the new board of trustees. They made passionate speeches, sharing their experiences and hopes for an inclusive and diverse student body to continue. [ TIFFANY TOMPKINS | Bradenton Herald ]
Published March 18, 2023

Florida is the American melting pot that you learned about in school. We Floridians are more than 50% female, 26% Hispanic or Latino, 21% foreign-born, 17% Black or African American and 23% non-white, according to the Census. And those categories “intersect,” or if you prefer, overlap. But Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to shut out opportunity and education for all of us.

Brook J. Sadler
Brook J. Sadler [ Provided ]

Under HB 999, he wants to banish critical discussions of race and gender and abolish diversity, equity and inclusion programs at all state colleges and universities. These attempt to include all people in the opportunities of higher education. History and common sense show us that diversity, equity and inclusion don’t happen without such programs. DeSantis wants to get rid of them. Here’s what that means.

To oppose diversity is to support homogeneity or sameness. The effect is to promote whiteness and to focus on male and heterosexual perspectives. One way to do that is to ban African American AP studies courses in high schools. Another way is to ban critical race theory and gender studies in colleges.

To oppose equity is to support inequality (or unfairness). The effect is less opportunity for women, racial minorities and those with minority sexual or gender identities, as well as immigrants. One way to achieve that effect is to make it more difficult for people to learn about the sources of inequality, historical and present-day, by abolishing programs that educate on these topics and firing faculty who research them.

To oppose inclusiveness is to support exclusivity. That means excluding and marginalizing people who are not white, male, gender-conforming, heterosexual or native-born. One way to do that is to make it more difficult for these people to get access to resources, including a college education.

Many DEI programs also support opportunities for veterans — and Florida has a large population of veterans, nearly 1.4 million — and people with disabilities (8.7% of the population under age 65). Abolishing DEI programs will also undercut their prospects for benefiting from higher education and contributing to society.

DeSantis is opposed to a society in which diverse people are educated, treated equally and included in educational, social and economic opportunity. To educate a diverse population means that society will be transformed by the input of women and diverse people in business, politics and culture. DeSantis is afraid of that future. Don’t be like him, and don’t let him get away with it.

Brook J. Sadler is an associate professor at the University of South Florida.