Florida State University SDS holds rally for diversity, equity and inclusion
Tallahassee, FL – On Thursday, March 23, around 30 students marched from Landis Green to Westcott Fountain demanding Florida State University President Richard McCollough take a stand to protect diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, especially in the light of House Bill 999 and other right-wing attacks on public education. Students chanted, “No hate, no fear, DEI is welcome here!” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Ron DeSantis, go away!” The march was organized by FSU Students for a Democratic Society (FSUSDS).
After the march reached Westcott Fountain, in front of the building that houses the administration, students gathered around the steps of the Westcott Building for a rally and speak-out. FSU administration proceeded to lock every door into the building, including the main entrance. The protest continued outside, with the main demand being a meeting with President McCollough.
Under pressure from the students boldly chanting, “We want a meeting!” an FSU admin exited the front of the building and asked to speak on the mic. He was promptly denied and fled back inside.
Although FSUSDS requested a meeting with the president through official channels weeks in advance, the university failed to follow up on the request. It soon became clear that a meeting would not happen unless students took matters into their own hands.
As the administrative lackey scurried back into the Westcott Building, one SDS member was able to catch the door on its way shut. The students entered the building and marched up the stairs to President McCollough’s office. Students continued chanting and demanding a meeting with the president, who was nowhere to be found. Around five minutes later the group was notified that FSU Provost Jim Clark would be willing to have a meeting with only four students out of the over 30 that showed up.
During the meeting, the students called on the university to publicly denounce HB999 and commit to FSUSDS’ four primary demands which are, first, protect and expand diversity programs and multicultural studies; second, increase Black enrollment and faculty; third, protect trans students and athletes; and fourth, oppose all attacks on public education.
In response, Provost Jim Clark said that the university is “aware of the issues” and will not take a public position on the bill. He also declined to comment on the university’s plan for complying with the bill, specifically in regard to majors, programs and student organizations that would be abolished under the bill.
Left unsatisfied with the administration’s lackluster response, the students exited the meeting chanting, “FSU admin take a stand! Oppose education bans!” and rejoined the group in the hall and directed the protest back outside to the steps of the Westcott Building.
One FSUSDS member who sat in on the meeting, Teddy Vegezzi, addressed the crowd, saying, “Students who actually are first-gen, students who are Black, students who are Hispanic, we know they don’t care about us. They never have and they never will.”
“How is it that we are paying tens of thousands of dollars to be here and when our majors are under attack, the provost and the president can’t even make a public statement about the classes they offer at their university?” asked another member.
FSUSDS is determined to continue the fight against right-wing attacks on public education and will participate in a statewide mobilization to the March 28 Board of Governors meeting alongside other Florida SDS chapters.