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University of Florida eliminates DEI offices, lays off all 13 full time employees

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The University of Florida (UF) has announced the termination of 13 full-time diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positions, along with the elimination of 15 administrative appointments and dissolved the office of the Chief Diversity Officer and terminated DEI contracts with external vendors, as outlined in a memo released on Friday.

These actions come in response to a 2023 Florida statute, which prohibits the use of state or federal funds for DEI initiatives. The statute, approved by the Florida Board of Governors on January 24, prompted UF to reallocate approximately $5 million previously designated for DEI expenses towards faculty recruitment efforts.

According to the memo, the office of DEI had three employees, including Chief Diversity Officer Marsha McGriff, Farrah Harvey, and Wilma Rogers. While the fate of the Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement remains uncertain, the center, which oversees offices for Asian, Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ student engagement, received over $400,000 in the 2022-2023 UF operating budget, with 85% of its funding coming from the state.

Employees affected by the termination will receive a 12-week severance pay and will have the opportunity to apply for other positions within the university. The memo also stated that the hiring process for these positions will be expedited.

In a statement, the University of Florida emphasized its ongoing commitment to universal human dignity and fostering a community of trust and respect for every member of the Gator Nation. The university pledged to continue educating students by engaging with a wide range of ideas and viewpoints.

The decision by UF reflects broader debates surrounding DEI initiatives in educational institutions and government policies. While some argue for the importance of DEI efforts in promoting inclusivity and equity, others advocate for budgetary reallocations towards different priorities, such as faculty recruitment.

The move also raises questions about the future of DEI initiatives within UF and the potential impact on marginalized student communities. As universities navigate evolving legislative landscapes and funding constraints, the balance between budgetary considerations and commitment to diversity and inclusion remains a topic of ongoing discussion.

In the face of these changes, stakeholders within the UF community and beyond will closely monitor the university’s efforts to maintain an inclusive and equitable environment for all students, faculty, and staff. The implementation of these measures underscores the complex intersection of policy, finance, and social values in higher education institutions across the United States.

2024 Race

Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Unstaffed Drop Boxes Ahead of 2024 Election

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In a significant ruling on July 5, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to reinstate the use of unstaffed drop boxes for absentee ballots, reversing the prohibition that had been in effect since 2022. The court’s 4–3 decision marks a pivotal change in Wisconsin’s election procedures ahead of the 2024 elections.

In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that state law did not allow for absentee drop boxes to be placed anywhere other than in election clerk offices. This decision effectively banned the use of unmanned drop boxes, which had been widely utilized in previous elections to facilitate absentee voting.

The reversal of the 2022 ruling was influenced by a change in the court’s composition. A new justice was elected in 2023, which led to a re-evaluation of the previous decision. During the arguments in May, Justice Jill Karofsky questioned the validity of the 2022 ruling, suggesting that it may have been a mistake. “What if we just got it wrong? What if we made a mistake? Are we now supposed to just perpetuate that mistake into the future?” Karofsky asked during the proceedings.

The court heard arguments three months before the August 13 primary and six months ahead of the November presidential election. Attorneys representing Republican backers of the 2022 ruling contended that there had been no changes in the facts or the law to justify overturning a decision that was less than two years old. Misha Tseytlin, at torney for the Republican-controlled Legislature, argued that overturning the ruling could lead to future instability, as the court might have to revisit the issue whenever its composition changes.

However, Justice Karofsky countered this by pointing out the potential flaws in the 2022 decision, questioning whether the court should continue to uphold a ruling that was “egregiously wrong from the start” with “exceptionally weak” reasoning and damaging consequences.

Democrats and voting rights advocates argued that the 2022 ruling misinterpreted the law by concluding that absentee ballots could only be returned to a clerk’s office and not to a drop box controlled by the clerk. David Fox, attorney for the groups challenging the prohibition, described the current law as unworkable and unclear about where ballots can be returned.

Several justices expressed concerns about revisiting the previous ruling, with Justice Rebecca Bradley cautioning against the court acting as a “super Legislature” and giving municipal clerks excessive discretion in conducting elections.

The case was brought by voter mobilization group Priorities USA and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Voters. Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which oversees the state’s elections, supported the use of drop boxes. Election officials from four counties, including the state’s two largest, also filed briefs in support of overturning the prohibition, arguing that drop boxes had been used securely for decades.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys highlighted the practical impact of the 2022 ruling, noting that over 1,600 absentee ballots arrived late and were not counted in the 2022 election when drop boxes were not in use. By contrast, in the 2020 election, when drop boxes were available, only 689 ballots arrived after Election Day, despite a significantly higher number of absentee voters.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate unstaffed drop boxes is a crucial development in the state’s election laws, potentially increasing accessibility and convenience for absentee voters. As the 2024 elections approach, this ruling may have significant implications for voter turnout and the administration of elections in Wisconsin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Elon Musk Backs Voter Bill Aimed at Providing Proof of U.S. Citizenship to Vote, Labels Opponents as “Traitors”

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Elon Musk recently voiced strong support for the SAVE Act, a bill proposed by House Speaker Mike Johnson aimed at ensuring only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. The Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act seeks to amend the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by mandating documentary proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration in federal elections.

The bill outlines several key measures:

  • State election officials must verify citizenship before providing voter registration forms.
  • Individuals must provide proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections.
  • States can accept various documents to make it easier for citizens to register.
  • States will have access to federal agency databases to remove non-citizens from voter rolls.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is directed to determine whether to initiate removal proceedings if a non-citizen is identified as registered to vote.
  • DHS must notify state election officials when individuals are naturalized to ensure they can exercise their voting rights.

Supporters, including Musk, argue that these measures are necessary to protect the integrity of U.S. elections by preventing non-citizens from voting. Critics of the bill claim it could disenfranchise eligible voters by imposing additional hurdles to the registration process.

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Election News

Far-Left Alliance Claims Victory in French Legislative Elections Amid Allegations of Electoral Controversy

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In a surprising turn of events, the socialist-communist New Popular Front alliance has emerged victorious in France’s snap legislative elections, prompting widespread scrutiny over the electoral process and political maneuvers. The coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, secured the most seats in Sunday’s final round, overshadowing President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition and relegating Marine Le Pen’s National Rally to third place.

Following the announcement of his alliance’s success, Mélenchon swiftly issued demands to President Macron, calling for either his resignation or the appointment of a prime minister from their ranks. This move underscores the dramatic shift in French politics, with Macron’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announcing his resignation in response to the coalition’s victory, signaling potential changes at the highest levels of government.

The electoral outcome has ignited controversy and speculation, particularly concerning allegations of strategic alliances and questionable tallying methods. Macron’s decision to align with the far-left to thwart the populist rise has raised eyebrows across Europe, with critics questioning the president’s political calculations and the potential consequences for France’s future governance.

Initially projected by exit polls to secure between 172 to 192 seats, the New Popular Front fell short of an absolute majority, requiring potential coalition-building efforts to effectively govern. Macron’s coalition, projected to win between 150 to 170 seats, now faces the prospect of negotiating with the far-left to maintain political control, highlighting the fragmentation within French politics.

The election results have highlighted the deep divisions within French society, exacerbated by Macron’s contentious decision to form an alliance aimed at preventing a National Rally majority. Critics, including Marine Le Pen, have decried what they describe as an “unnatural agreement” between Macron and the far-left, accusing the establishment of manipulating the electoral process to maintain power.

The fallout from these elections extends beyond political strategy, with concerns over potential social unrest looming large. Paris and other major cities have ramped up security measures in anticipation of possible protests and demonstrations, underscoring the volatile political climate in France.

As France navigates the aftermath of these divisive elections, the focus remains on the implications for governance, stability, and the future direction of French politics. The rise of the far-left alliance and its demands for leadership change have set the stage for a period of intense political maneuvering and uncertainty in the heart of Europe.

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