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DEI Town Hall enforces new policies for upcoming academic year

Graphic by ella Niren

On Feb. 8, 2023, President Cornwall and other members of college leadership joined the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) taskforce in hosting a public town hall. The event was open to the student body, and aimed to shine light on DEI’s recently drafted five-year plan. After seeking approval for the plan in 2021–22, the taskforce will now implement a variety of policies starting in the 2023–24 school year.

“The major goal is to help accommodate students,” says Erica Mungin (‘24), the Diversity & Inclusion Chair for the Student Government Association (SGA). Through these productive “systemic changes,” the taskforce also aims to “retain students and staff” and continue to focus on how those at the college “can feel supported,” Mungin added.

The town hall sought to address three major goals for the future of DEI at Rollins: They aimed to 1) “deepen student engagement,” 2) “deliver on the promise of student success,” and 3) “strengthen [the school’s] competitive advantage.”

The first initiative involves the introduction of DEI competencies to existing courses. An inclusive “intercultural curriculum” has been planned across all subjects, including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses that usually lack a DEI component. That might be something as simple as exploring research from a wider range of authors and researchers in the classroom. 

Regarding the second goal, a more diverse peer mentoring program was discussed, emphasizing the social support of students who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). Additionally, the current incident bias reporting methods will see a “revamp” that prioritizes student choice in the college’s response, while also providing preventative education.

On the topic of competitive advantage, the taskforce will train faculty on DEI competencies to better equip them to implement the new curriculum. The college is also looking to hire three new leadership positions, including the “Director of Faculty DEI, the Director of Student Support and Belonging, and the Director of Staffing,” said Mungin. 

In a broader context, these plans come on the heels of Governor Ron DeSantis’ pushback against DEI programs on Florida college campuses. As a private institution, Rollins has more freedom than state universities when it comes to DEI policies; however, fears about potential financial aid restrictions still loom. 

The state-funded Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, for instance, could be in jeopardy if the school was found to be “using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT, and other discriminatory initiatives,” said the Governor’s office in a written statement. 

With that in mind, the aforementioned curriculum additions were deemed to be “intercultural” rather than “diversity” based measures. 

In response to decisions made by the Florida government, on Feb. 23 at 12 p.m., Rollins College Democrats will be holding a rally to support Florida public colleges walking out for their rights.

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