Kaily LaChapelle — a sophomore at Florida International University and the president of the school’s Pride Student Union — is afraid that Florida could do away with funding for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs on college campuses.
Florida lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would eliminate state funding for such programs at public universities.
“My initial reaction was scared, then I was angry,” LaChapelle told CBS News.
The bill has the support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We will be the first state to wipe out DEI at our public universities,” DeSantis said last month.
In its current form, H.B. 999 does not prohibit university student groups, but it does prohibit state universities from using funds “to promote, support or maintain any programs or campus activities that advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Earlier this month, Florida students and faculty gave passionate public testimony on the issue before the state House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee. The vast majority in attendance opposed eliminating the programs.
And across the state, hundreds of students have organized walkouts, and marched and rallied in opposition.
Nationally, at least four Republican-led states, including Texas, are following Florida’s lead and have taken action, or are considering it, at their public universities.
Earlier this month, at a forum organized by the Florida governor’s office on DEI programs in state universities, Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the State University System of Florida, and Roger Tovar, the FIU vice chair, both sided with the governor.
“We’re very interested in taking action,” Tovar said in the forum.
FIU, which is one of the state’s largest schools with over 55,000 students, spends $3.1 million on DEI support groups, mentorship programs and clubs, including about $100,000 in scholarships, servicing thousands of students.
“That is our community, that is where we find our family,” LaChapelle said.