Florida university board votes in support of bill that prohibits colleges from spending federal funding on DEI programs

Students at the University of North Florida (UNF) rallied on campus Wednesday to show support for the university’s LGBTQ+ Center.

The center was one of many resources in jeopardy after Senate Bill 266 passed last year. The bill prevents Florida’s public colleges and universities from spending any state or federal funding on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs.

The Florida Board of Governors met Wednesday to discuss how to move forward and voted in support of the bill.

During the meeting, Alan Levine on the Florida Board of Governors made sure to emphasize that the board is not banning student organizations. Also, he said student activity and service fees can be used to fund groups.

Students told News4JAX they fear the center will be cut.

Rachel Bacchus told News4JAX that the center provides her peace.

“I’d heard about the LGBTQ center and thought it’d be a good place to come to,” Rachel Bacchus, an LGBTQ+ student, said.

Bacchus said the award-winning LGBTQ+ center made UNF feel like home. It’s a feeling many others shared.

“It’s very loud, it’s very bold, it’s very obvious,” Jaye Dodge, a student, said. “It’s not trying to hide. And that gave me a sense of reassurance that this is a different place. The people here are different. And I’m more welcome here than maybe I was at home.”

The center was founded in 2006 to provide education and resources for the students, staff and community. It has trainings, professional development and offers resources like free mental health programs.

Students told News4JAX that UNF may become a less accepting place if the center were to close.

“The LGBTQ center has been in such a limbo for so long, but it’s been the same exact amount of painfulness that it’s been since day 1,” Icarus Olsen, a student, said.

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