OneJax Institute, an organization dedicated to community diversity, is parting ways with the University of North Florida as the state tries to strip higher education of its diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
OneJax will re-establish itself as a separate non-profit organization. “The current political climate in our state affects all state universities, and we do not want the core mission and vision of our 53-year-old organization to be held back or limited,” CEO Kyle Reese said in a statement Wednesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to eliminate all state funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs at public colleges and universities — a move he said would let the programs “wither on the vine.”
His administration required all institutions to report how much money was spent on staff, programs and campus activities related to those areas.
Information submitted by UNF showed $3,518,349 in diversity-related expenses, according to a review by WJCT News. The largest expense was $1.3 million for OneJax, but the state pays none of those expenses.
Reese emphasized that OneJax has been responsible for raising its own operating funds ever since joining UNF in 2012. “These funds enable the organization to provide programs and services to help Jacksonville become a diverse and inclusive community – a where everyone has equal opportunity,” the OneJax statement said.
OneJax describes its mission as “to achieve civility, understanding and respect for all people,” according to its website. “We work to increase respect and improve relationships between people who represent the rich menagerie of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups that make up our society,” the organization says.
The institute has offered interfaith programs, humanitarian awards, youth programs and community building events, among other programs. OneJax is in a good financial position and expects to continue to raise the operating funds it needs, Reese said.
Many UNF students have rebelled against the state’s move and participated in a statewide walkout nearly two weeks ago. They challenged UNF President Moez Limayem to preserve all UNF diversity and equity programs.
Limayem said he aims to find alternative financing if the state withdraws money — provided state law allows him to do so. He said the university will follow any law that comes down from the Florida Legislature.
In the statement Wednesday, Limayem said OneJax and the university are “parting as friends, and I wish OneJax well as it continues to pursue its work in the greater Jacksonville community.”
Limayem said it’s his experience that affiliations like the one between UNF and OneJax shift over time. “This is not an unusual occurrence,” he said.