Silenced IDEAs: How The FAU Campus Inclusion Center Vanished

  • This story is for OutFAU, our student publication covering Florida Atlantic University. To see more from OutFAU click here. 

Photo by Mary Rasura.

Paige Allen used to visit the LGBTQ+ resource center on the second floor of the Student Union, known as the Center for IDEAs. Allen would see Pride flags hanging down the walls, free condoms, resource pamphlets, and the sound of her friends laughing. 

Allen, a studio art major, graduated in December. She’s also the previous president of Lavender Alliance, one of the two main student organizations for LGBTQ+ students on the Boca Campus. 

The place she once knew no longer exists after Gov. Ron DeSantis passed Senate Bill 266, which eliminates or heavily restricts diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in the state university system. The law took effect July 1, 2023. The IDEAs Center closed shortly thereafter. 

But how that law will further affect FAU and other campuses is still unknown and much debated. For Allen, the Center for IDEAs might be gone, but she still shows up there – although it’s a sad visit.

“The lack of human interaction is the biggest loss I suffer from the center being gone,” Allen said. “I found people who were like me and had experiences I related to at the center, and now they are scattered. There are fewer places for marginalized students to gather that are not student-led.”

That trend could easily spread to far more than campus DEI centers, experts say. 


Explaining the problem

Because of the new law’s vague language, experts fear other student groups – from women in STEM to historically black fraternities and sororities — may be censored or will censor themselves out of fear of noncompliance.

“There are a lot of groups that fall outside of what this law is clearly designed to protect, which is this sort of traditional white male Christian student and organizations they support,” said Andrew Gothard, the president of United Faculty of Florida, the state’s faculty union. “We’re very concerned about the harm that this is going to cause to all of these communities, especially communities that have historically had a more difficult time accessing higher education.”

Congress and state legislatures have a long history of passing laws that have unintended consequences. Gothard, who’s also an English professor at FAU, is worried this new law will put a target on groups far beyond its DEI offices.

Other experts share in Gothard’s concern, such as Carlos Guillermo Smith, senior policy advisor at Equality Florida and a former member of the Florida House of Representatives. 

“Basically, it is going to severely limit how students are able to exercise their free speech rights as college students,” Smith said, “And it says that no funds from the state or federal government can be used to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, nor can they be used to fund student groups that advocate for what they define as social issues.”

Smith continued, “They have a very broad definition of social issues, which covers pretty much anything a student would ever want to advocate for or against ever. So I think it’s incumbent upon university students and all others to speak out against these attacks to speak out against the attacks on academic freedom, and the attempt to censor students and faculty in the so-called free state of Florida.”

‘Page not found'

When the Center for IDEAs closed over the summer, senior English major Austin Browne was working at the Council of Student Organizations, which is located on the same floor as the Center for IDEAs was.Browne shared that the Center for IDEAs had a bookshelf with books on topics such as queer media and critical race theory.

When the Center for IDEAs closed over the summer, senior English major Austin Browne was working at the Council of Student Organizations, which is located on the same floor as the Center for IDEAs was.Browne shared that the Center for IDEAs had a bookshelf with books on topics such as queer media and critical race theory.

“Any sort of marginalized demographic had some level of representation in these bookcases,” he said. 

After the Center for IDEAs closed, Browne said the books were moved from the Center into a conference room in the Student Government office. 

“It felt kind of weird because I’m a gay person myself,” Browne said. “There’s like old gay and lesbian magazines and stuff, there’s some history here, right? This is like a snapshot of how the culture was for this community.” 

Browne said that the removal of the books “just made kind of all of the legislative stuff going on in the state feel very, very real.”

FAU spokesman Joshua Glanzer did not give a date for when the Center for IDEAs opened but a quick search through the center’s X (formerly Twitter) account has posts going back through August of 2013. The X account hasn’t been active since 2021. 

To illustrate FAU’s scrubbing of DEI, the link (FAU.edu/diversity) that once promoted diversity now says “page not found,” when clicked on. It’s unclear when the page was removed, but Smith posted about it on Oct.19. 

“Now, FAU’s Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives is shut down. Their Center for Inclusion, Diversity Education + Advocacy, dismantled,” he posted. “Both are a consequence of SB 266 defunding DEI in public colleges and universities. They are trying to erase us.”

FAU’s center made national news when USA Today looked at a few similar centers around the country that have shut down recently.

The future 

For all the possible ramifications of the new law, FAU’s Center for IDEAs isn’t really dead. The students are keeping it alive on their own. 

Like Allen, students regularly gather in the empty offices that were once staffed by several FAU employees. They lament that emptiness. But one bright spot of this new law is that students are energized. 

In fact, on Dec. 1, around 12 student activists gathered in the space to write down and illustrate their feelings. 

Students expressed concern to OutFAU about the chilling effect of Senate Bill 266 and how they don’t feel FAU has their back in this battle. 

“If [FAU is] doing anything, it’s not enough, because it’s nice that they’re still letting the [student] organizations fill the gap, but they can’t do everything that the universities do,” said Lewis de Berry a freshman English major. 

Ximena Dipietro, a senior history major and a leader in Solidarity, an FAU socialist student organization, is also concerned about the bill and its effects on the students. 

“I think it’s a harmful bill and I think it has harmful effects on our community here,” said Dipietro, who identifies as queer. “[There’s] a symbolic harm of seeing a space explicitly designed and entitled for us, but it’s also led to reverberating effects in censorship by professors on certain topics, and loss of medical care through the schools for trans people like me.”

OutFAU asked Glanzer about the empty space that was the Center for IDEAs. He replied…

The physical space formerly housing the Center for IDEAs is used as a general gathering space for students, many of whom previously attended programs and services offered by the Center and the student organizations who were advised by Center staff. We have installed student workstations with free printing and student staff facilitate divisional Transfer Student Success Initiatives, including the Transfer Action Program and the Johnson Scholarship Program for First Generation Transfer Students. Finally, we have hosted the Let’s Talk program facilitated by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“I hope that this is just a phase in Florida history,” said de Berry. “But at the same time, I don’t see myself living in Florida, because it’s just so volatile right now. I’m just here to go to college and get out.”


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