DEI Is Dead In Florida. How Will That Affect The State’s Business Schools?

March has come in like a lion at the University of Florida — a lion that has ripped to shreds efforts to increase diversity in the school’s student ranks.

Florida’s public university flagship this month announced the elimination of 13 full-time positions and cancellation of 15 administrative appointments for employees who worked across campus on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. The move is a result of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing legislation in 2023 that banned public colleges from using tax dollars to implement or promote DEI initiatives, and the Florida board of education’s redefinition of DEI as “programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment.”

The University of Florida has not published details on all the affected positions or departments. However, among the eliminated jobs was the university’s chief diversity officer, Martha McGriff. The school announced March 2 that all affected employees will receive 12 weeks of severance pay and be considered priorities should they apply for different jobs on campus; and that it would reallocate about $5 million to a faculty recruitment fund that had previously been designated for diversity programs.

Read former GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla on why diversity is essential to U.S. business schools.


The university’s memo, signed by Provost J. Scott Angle, General Counsel Amy Meyers Hass, and Vice President for Human Resources Melissa Curry, said the university “is – and will always be – unwavering in our commitment to universal human dignity.” But it was unclear from the school’s announcement and news reports how the death of DEI will impact the University of Florida’s business school, the Warrington College of Business, or its graduate school, the Hough Graduate School of Business. Among the offices at UF that fall under DEI: The Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, the Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity, the Disability Resource Center, the RESPECT Team, and the Office of Institutional Planning and Research’s diversity dashboard.

To a request for comment from Poets&Quants about the specific positions eliminated and how many might be in the B-school, a spokesperson responded by email: “Thirteen full-time positions were eliminated from UF. Administrative appointments were ended for fifteen members of the faculty from UF. Given university policy to not comment on personnel matters, we will decline to share further information.” The spokesperson invited P&Q to “make a public records request at”

The passage of Regulation 9.016 on Prohibited Expenditures and the university’s response are part of one battle in a broader effort by conservative groups and politicians to curb what they see as a growing cultural and electoral threat: the diversification of the workforce and general populace — a goal to which leading business schools in particular have long been dedicated. Florida has for years been the front line in this culture war. “Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s commissioner of education, said in January, adding that taxpayer money should not be spent on DEI and “radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

Ben Sasse, a former U.S. senator from Nebraska, resigned from the Senate in January 2023 to become the University of Florida’s president. Sasse was praised by conservative politicians in the wake of the UF decision; and DeSantis posted his approval of the university’s announcement on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, saying that “DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities. I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI and I hope more states follow suit.”

Students at UF seem less glad. The student newspaper Independent Florida Alligator spoke with current students who decried the move, including Rebecca Rollins, a 20-year-old UF biology sophomore. She tied Sasse’s appointment to the presidency last year to the anti-DEI regulations.

“How do you come to the school and, in your first calendar year, take away an entire department?” Rollins says. “There’s been in the air homophobia, transphobia, just across the board, especially since Sasse came here.”


In addition to cutting positions and canceling appointments, Florida’s education board also said last week that a “principles of sociology” course could no longer be taught and would be replaced with a general U.S. history class. It is unclear what other changes to the curricula, including at the Warrington College, might be underway or in store.

Minority enrollment at Hough, which rose to 25th in Poets&Quants‘ 2024 MBA ranking, has dropped in recent years, falling to 17.6% in 2022 from 27.4% a year earlier, according to data provided in U.S. News & World Report‘s 2023 MBA ranking. The school currently lists its under-represented population at 44% of the full-time MBA, which numbers just over two dozen students. The Warrington College, which currently includes more than 6,800 undergraduate students, was 5.6% Black, 23.5% Hispanic, 9.1% Asian, and 52.3% white as of 2020; the school’s Diversity Dashboard shows Warrington’s total under-represented population in fall 2022 at just under 26%, down from 27.5% the year before.

According to the Dashboard, the total number of Black students on UF’s campus fell last year to 5.7% of students, its lowest level in more than a decade. “Among faculty,” reports WUFT in Gainesville, “Black professors accounted for about 4.6% of the workforce on UF’s campus, according to the latest available figures.” For context, the percentage of Black residents in Florida is about 17%.

According to a P&Q analysis, since 2021 minority numbers have declined at the full-time MBA programs of three of five other top B-schools in Florida.

DEI amounts to a drop in the fiscal bucket at Florida’s 12 public universities and colleges: According to the state legislature, expenditures reserved for DEI programs amounted to $34.5 million across all schools last year, including $21 million in state funds — less than 0.3% of the universities’ combined expenditures.

In the Alligator, 19-year-old civil engineering student Maxwell Fletcher said the DEI ban would do nothing to help UF’s reputation nationally.

“It certainly does not point to education and higher education of Florida in a great light, especially if we are trying to improve rankings,” Fletcher says. “Even if it is a state policy, there are ways to fight it, and I unfortunately don’t believe that the University of Florida did the best job they could with that.”


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