FAU faculty anxious about State’s DEI and CRT requests

At the first Faculty Senate meeting of the semester, faculty voiced their concerns for Governor Ron DeSantis’ requests, and made other decisions.


Jessica Abramsky

Interim President Stacy Volnick speaks to faculty in the first Faculty Senate meeting of the Spring 2023 semester.

Caroline Ribeiro, Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of public dental schools in the state of Florida.

On Monday, the Faculty Senate met for the first time this semester. They discussed the effects of new legislation, plans for a dental school, the on-going search for a new Florida Atlantic University president following the resignation of President John Kelly, and changes to the university calendar. 

The meeting also included controversial comments from the Board of Trustees Chair Brad Levine and Interim Provost Michele Hawkins.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) requests 

In a memorandum sent out Dec. 28, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis’ office requested a list of all staff and programs that deal with DEI and CRT from public universities in Florida, which receive  state funding. He also requested information regarding the amount of money spent on those programs, and how much of that money comes from the state.

DeSantis gave the universities until Jan. 13, 2023, to “collect and submit all institutions’ responses,” according to the memorandum.

Those whose names were included in the list were contacted by the university to alert them of the situation.

 This generated a good deal of anxiety for FAU faculty. During the meeting, many faculty members voiced their fears and concerns for academic freedom, and what future steps might be taken to protect students and the university. 

Some faculty members felt as if the university targeted specific people when deciding which names to include. One member in particular, Professor Allan Barsky, acknowledged that while that might not have been the university’s intent, the list named many adjunct faculty, as well as minority and LGBT. 

This led to a controversial reply by Hawkins. “We did not do that. We did not know what color, if they were purple, if they have sex with animals.”

Barsky asked Hawkins to not equate LGBT people with bestiality, and stated that it came across as insulting. Hawkins then apologized. 

Interim President Stacy Volnick spoke to the faculty about their frustrations about the situation. 

“We can’t just stand up and announce that we’re not going to be in compliance,” Volnick stated.

 She explained that the university had no choice but to comply and they will do their best to communicate and be more transparent as these situations arise.

The faculty ultimately decided to release a statement detailing how they view this request and their fears of censorship and control in academia.

Presidential search

After former FAU President John Kelly stepped down in the fall, the search for a new president began. 

A committee with 15 members have started the process of selecting the criteria for a new president, and will hold listening sessions where they talk to members of the community to gain more perspective of what the community needs. 

The chair, Brad Levine, announced that not all candidates will come from a traditional background of academia, as they are considering some who have backgrounds in business, politics, and other fields.

This worried some faculty members who voiced concerns about the presidential selection becoming political and having partisan influence, as well as excluding the perspectives of non-business and non-health related members of the university. 

“It’s definitely politicized. It’s in the newspapers,” Levine added, and went on to agree with Barsky’s statement that the new president should advocate for the university and not act as a representative of current government in power, regardless of what that government is.

“We will not rush through this process just for the sake of making it happen,” Levine replied, stating that the inclusion of all perspectives is very important and they will take the time to include everyone. 

Dental school

In Fall 2022, there was a lot of discussion around the idea of FAU adding a dental school.

This has been approved by the Board of Governors, and the university is currently seeking adequate funding.

Once the project is completed, it will be the second public dental school in Florida, following the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry. 

Calendar changes

The Faculty Senate passed a motion to alter the FAU academic calendar. In previous years, students had Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving as non-instructional days. Due to concerns of student attendance, the faculty passed a motion to include Wednesday as a non-instructional day for the Fall 2023 semester.

Caroline Ribeiro is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message her on Instagram @carolpardiniribeiro.