The University of North Florida closed its diversity, equity, and inclusion office on Wednesday, but DEI personnel were given new job titles, rather than being fired.

The former chief diversity officer, Richmond Wynn, was not fired, but given a new title—vice president of community engagement and partnerships. 

In the new role, Wynn is responsible for “developing and implementing comprehensive strategies to establish and enhance mutually beneficial relationships between the university and communities, stakeholders, and industry partners,” according to his LinkedIn profile. 

He also “works with other UNF departments to facilitate and promote on-campus community engagement activities that embed civility and a culture of care throughout UNF, institutional values that support a safe and welcoming environment for all students, faculty and staff.”

Wynn did not respond to a request for comment. 

When asked if the job description means Wynn will continue to promote DEI-related initiatives at UNF, a spokeswoman for the university said the closing of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its centers is in response to Florida state Senate Bill 266 and regulations approved by the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida. 

Signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last May, the law bars public colleges and universities from spending taxpayer dollars on DEI programs.

“By this week, all the centers were officially closed,” UNF Media Relations Manager Amanda Ennis told The Daily Signal. “Some staff members have left the University for other job opportunities. All other employees have moved to other open positions in the university that are not related to DEI.”

UNF announced in January that it would begin phasing out the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. University President Moez Limayem said that no staff members would lose their jobs as a result, but would be assigned to work in other departments with the same or higher salary.

The new role of Sheila Spivey, who was previously assistant vice president of diversity and inclusion, could not be found online, and an emailed request to her for comment bounced back with an “out of office” notice. Brandi Winfrey, director of inclusive excellence, has not changed her job title on LinkedIn and did not respond to a request for comment. 

The diversity office staff also included two administrators, and two to three employees for each center. 

UNF will continue offering a handful of DEI-related courses in the fall 2024 semester, according to the course catalog, including Introduction to Educational Leadership for Social Justice; Race, Gender, and Politics; Sex, Race, and Social Class; and Difference, Discrimination, and Oppression. 

The latter course addresses “issues of power, inequality, privilege, discrimination and the resulting oppression,” according to the course description. 

“Course material will use a social justice perspective for the study of and practice with oppressed groups at all system levels, including those distinguished by race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, immigration status, religion and social class,” the description adds. 

The webpage that once displayed UNF’s DEI resources now shows “Access Restricted” result, with this message: “You do not have permission to access this resource.”

The page previously included UNF’s “Inclusive Excellence” strategic plan, as well as information on its Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, LGBTQ Center, and Women’s Center, according to a Wayback Machine internet search. 

“Inclusive Excellence employs a broad and inclusive definition of diversity that includes genetic information, race, ethnicity, color, religion, age, sex, ability, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, veteran status and other important social dimensions that are part of the campus community,” the strategic plan said. 

The LGBT Center offered resources on “preferred” personal pronouns, transgenderism, and more. 

“Pronouns are a reflection of someone’s gender identity, and to ignore that is to say that their identity isn’t valid,” the resource on pronouns said. “Even when the person isn’t around, using the correct pronouns to refer to them says to those around you that you acknowledge the person’s identity, regardless of how you feel about the person, and encourages others to do the same.”

The page includes a list of common pronouns, as well as “neo” pronouns, such as “Xe/Xem/Xyr,” “Ey/Em/Eir,” “Zie/Zim/Zir,” “Ve/Ver/Vis,” and “Ne/Nem/Nir.” 

The Women’s Center was “committed to advocating for gender equality and improving the status of women.”

“We recognize that gender inequalities are deeply connected to other areas of disenfranchisement and oppression in our society,” the archived webpage reads. “Therefore, our programs and services strive to value and promote respect for all differences. This means that women and men and people of all races, cultures, and sexual orientations are welcome in the Women’s Center.”

The Diversity Office webpage also included a statement in support of anti-racism. 

“Examining biases and exclusionary practices, and promoting integrity, inclusivity, and ultimately excellence, enhances our personal development, relationships with others, well-being, and global citizenship,” part of the statement reads. 

Some UNF students voiced their complaints about the office’s closure on Wednesday. 

“I think it’s a travesty we’re shutting down such great resources,” student Emily Roles told WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida

The UNF Diversity Office closure closely follows the shutdown of DEI at the University of Florida. The home of the Gators sports teams closed an office for a chief diversity officer and eliminated other DEI positions in March, and is reviewing whether the remaining Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion violates state law. 

While University of Florida fired DEI personnel, Florida State University took an approach similar to UNF’s, changing the titles and classifications of employees who were in related positions.

The Board of Governors is in the process of reviewing programs in Florida universities to ascertain whether they violate state laws prohibiting DEI instruction, Communications Director Cassandra Edwards told The Daily Signal. She said that programs in state schools found to violate the law will be “eliminated.” 

“As this is an ongoing, deliberate process, it will not conclude overnight,” she said. “But rest assured, thanks to Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, state or federal funds will not be used for DEI by Florida’s universities.”