The Crusader Newspaper Group

How did we allow diversity, equity and inclusion to transform into negatives?

In the upside-down, inside-out culture of this nation, there are some changes impossible to swallow. One is that words like diversity, equity and inclusion have been twisted from being assets to liabilities.

Of course the dereliction of professional responsibility and the ethics of conventional and social media perpetuate flipping the script. Nobody fact checks on a regular basis. No one is accountable for purposeful lies.

We are in a place in which deception is par for the course, and political rhetoric has precedence over truth and morality. We’ve reached the point at which character is no longer relevant. It’s like the R&B hit, “Seems Like Everything Right is Wrong.”

So while impeachments, indictments, convictions, hateful speech, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, corporate corruption and the absence of compassion for the most vulnerable are negligible in the eyes of too many, the line of intolerance is drawn at diversity, equity and inclusion?

Ridiculous. This week in Gainesville, Florida, students and professors at the University of Florida are increasingly concerned after hearing about the elimination of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs and positions.

UF’s DEI termination decision is meant to comply with one of the Florida Board of Governors’ regulations on prohibited expenditure.

A professor feels people don’t understand the true purpose of these programs. “These programs are exposing and educating people to communities, perspectives and ideas to start a conversation,” shared David Canton, director of African American Studies.

Officials say 13 positions were eliminated and 15 administrative appointments were cancelled.

“It might have an impact in terms of hiring, we don’t know that, that’s long term,” shared Canton. “Nevertheless, that is something we will see in the near future in terms of its impact on the institution and the state of Florida.

“The argument was these programs promote indoctrination of quote-un-quote radical ideas,” he shared.

The $5 million that funded UF’s DEI initiatives, including salaries, now will be placed into a retirement fund for the school’s faculty, according to an administrative memo.

The president of the University of Florida’s faculty union, UF-United Faculty of Florida, shared her opposition to the policy. She warns the decision could make it more difficult for the university to hire and retain talented faculty.

“Ethically speaking, denying that there are historically dominant groups that put in place systemic practices of oppression against historically marginalized groups, or denying that these inequities have to be proactively addressed isn’t mere denial: such an attitude represents an active support for such practices of oppression. Couching such support under “color-blindness” or “anti-discrimination” language is merely an Orwellian spin,” stated Meera Sitharam, UFF-UF president. We know what Florida and its state leadership is all about, so these deplorable and retrogressive changes are not surprising. But we can never get to the point at which we silently accept such atrocities as being part of some new normal.

It reinforces the necessity of voter activation, education and participation.

A different governor in Florida would have facilitated a different outcome. We have got to connect the dots. Not living in an impacted state is no excuse for apathy. We need awareness and advocacy more than ever here in 2024. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Get involved!?

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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