Florida universities spending millions of dollars on controversial diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs

by | Jan 19, 2023

  • Documents submitted by Florida universities show that millions of state dollars are flowing to support controversial ideological programs and curriculum 
  • The University of Florida spends more than any other school, with over 40 staff positions linked to the programs
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Paul Renner have pledged to examine the expenditures and eliminate unnecessary funding linked to DEI programs

TALLAHASSEE — Some Florida universities are spending millions of dollars on programs and other expenses related to diversity, equity and inclusion — as Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration target “trendy ideology” on campuses.

Chris Spencer, director of DeSantis’ Office of Policy and Budget, in a Dec. 28 memo directed leaders of the state college and university systems to require institutions to “provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.”

The News Service of Florida reviewed a list of information submitted by universities, including descriptions of spending and how much of the money comes from the state.

The University of Florida, the state’s flagship university, reported spending $5.3 million on diversity-related programs and expenses, with nearly $3.4 million coming from the state. The university listed 43 staff positions connected to the efforts.

For example, the university’s Office of the Chief Diversity Officer includes four staff positions and costs the school $1,085,485, with about $785,000 coming from the state. A description of the office said it “develops (an) inclusive excellence strategy for the university and coordinates inclusive excellence initiatives across the colleges and business units.”

The diversity office also “supports compliance with federal Affirmative Action regulations,” the university noted.

The University of Central Florida, meanwhile, spent nearly $4.5 million on programs and expenses, with about $2.3 million of that amount flowing from the state.

UCF listed eight courses, all of which the school described as “optional,” that involve diversity, equity and inclusion concepts. “Gender issues in communication,” “cultural diversity in criminal justice,” “third wave feminism” and “politics and civil rights” were listed among the classes.

The University of South Florida reported spending that included about $1.2 million for its Diversity and Inclusion Office, with $1.13 million of that amount coming from the state.

Spencer in his Dec. 28 memo said college and university expenses will be reviewed as lawmakers gear up to craft a budget for the fiscal year that will start July 1.

“As the Executive Office of the Governor prepares policy and budget proposals ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, it is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions,” Spencer wrote.

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, also requested information last week from colleges and universities about diversity, equity and inclusion offices and programs. Renner sent letters to school presidents with lists of information that the House wants.

In a prepared statement, Renner said he looks “forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to establish proper guardrails that ensure these institutions provide our students with an inclusive, well-rounded education that prepares them for the future without promoting an aggressively ideological agenda under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

DeSantis, who is widely considered a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has drawn widespread attention for his vows to fight “wokeness,” including on college and university campuses. But the administration’s Dec. 28 directive drew criticism from the United Faculty of Florida union.

Andrew Gothard, the union’s president, called the request for information “yet another attack on the freedoms” of students, faculty and staff at higher-education institutions.

“Once again, Governor DeSantis has shown that he would rather outlaw ideas he disagrees with than disprove them. Our belief is that all ideas, regardless of their ideological basis and irrespective of whether we agree with them, deserve the protections of the First Amendment,” Gothard said in a statement to the News Service when the administration’s request was made public Jan. 4.

In the information reviewed by the News Service, Florida A&M University, the state’s only historically Black public university, reported spending $4.4 million for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and efforts, with nearly $4.2 million coming from the state.

The largest expenditure listed by FAMU was for its Center for Environmental Equity and Justice.

“The mission of the Center for Environmental Equity and Justice is to conduct and facilitate research, develop policies, engage in education, training, and community outreach activities with respect to environmental equity and justice issues for the state of Florida,” the school’s description of the center said.

Among other universities, Florida Atlantic University reported spending about $904,000 on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and expenses, with roughly $643,000 coming from the state. The university also listed several classes that include concepts under scrutiny by DeSantis’ office.

A course called “Gender and Climate Change” uses $10,000 in state funding.

“This course explores how gender inequality across the globe is related to environmental damage and climate change and examines feminist, indigenous and LGBTQ climate justice movements alongside the gendered implications of global policy and practices related to the environment,” a description of the course said.

Meanwhile, the state college system, which is made up of 28 schools, is preparing to eliminate funding for programs that could draw fire from the DeSantis administration.

John Avendano, president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, read a statement on behalf of the college system’s Council of Presidents during a Wednesday meeting of the State Board of Education.

The college system “will ensure that all initiatives, instruction and activities do not promote any ideology that suppresses intellectual and academic freedom, freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning,” Avendano said.

“As such, our institutions will not fund or support any institutional practice, policy or academic requirement that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analyzed and-or improved upon,” Avendano told the board, which oversees the college system.


  1. Bruce S

    UF football coach Billy Napier makes a lot more than this. Talk about contriving a non-issue into your lead story. Wow.

    • Chandlet

      Napier is employed by the University Athletic Assoc, not UF directly.

  2. Anonymous

    The subject matter is only controversial to those who share the same “School of Thought” as DeSantis. The governor knows how to game the system and pander to those “Simple Minds” who does not view education as a part of their value system. This is most unfortunate…

  3. Robert

    Millions of state dollars to fund ideological programs? Amazing how many support ‘indoctrination’ over ‘education’ which is exactly what these ideological programs are. A course called “Gender and Climate Change” uses $10,000 in state funding — and THAT’s education ?? A young, immature and impressionable mind (or avowed socialist) might believe this CRAP, but not the remaining 99% of the state’s tax payers.

  4. BB8

    DeSantis is doing his best efforts to keep minorities down. He just banned a HS AP African Studies class, he banned talking about race and gender and he want to get rid of diversity programs in Universities. He is the poster child of the KKK.

  5. Robert

    And I would like to see an AP class taught in our schools for everything that I (and all the rest of you) have been wronged in life for as well. My parents who insisted I grow-up and be a socially responsible adult – and punished me when I didn’t. My teachers when they expected me to learn the subject matter being taught – and FAILED me when I didn’t – and/or handed out excessive homework – or paddled me for inappropriate classroom behavior. For bullying by the neighborhood and classroom kids, who enjoyed their sadistic cruelty at my expense. All the neighborhood jerks who made my life (and yours) miserable because they didn’t have anything else better to do. And employers who insisted I perform my job properly for which I was hired; oh, and please don’t forget to include in the curriculum information regarding my discriminatory colleagues, who constantly talked behind my back and plotted and schemed to get me fired. Also, the US military who placed me in harms way on numerous occasions in defense of my country, etc. The legal system who was more concerned about the rights of the criminal (than me) when I was on the receiving end of a violent felony. Oh, and I’m sure DeSantis would like to see an AP class regarding his Italian ancestors who were treated unfairly and discriminated against when they arrived at Ellis Island in New York, only to find hardship and discrimination waiting for them as well. Whoa, wait a minute, I believe we already know that. Yes, let’s implement one AP class after another about every known wrong we have ever (or will fall VICTIM to – don’t you LOVE that word)? No one will mind – no parents or students will be resentful for forcing them to take those classes, because that will fix ALL of societies ills – just one indoctrinating blame game after another. Let’s throw away ALL the three R’s, and replace them with the three I’s (Indoctrinate, Indoctrinate, and Indoctrinate). All previous and current societal problems solved – equity & equality achieved !

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