Curl up with this year's Housing Guide for dorm friendly recipes, curfew throwbacks and more, click here

Guest Column: Die by a lie: The inexplicable end of DEI in Florida

This guest column from USF professor Adriana Novoa is in response to the recent Board of Governors regulation banning diversity, equity and inclusion funding at public state universities. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Think about the time in which Florida’s public universities were not battlegrounds of lies. 

Ask yourselves what happened, when was the exact moment in which your professors stopped teaching and start indoctrinating, evil people who want to brainwash you to become Che Guevara smoking a Cuban cigar.

I have asked myself this question often these days, partly because I am from Argentina, the place where Che was born, and I grew up in a horrible dictatorship that indoctrinated us to believe that everything that we saw, smelled, touched and tasted was a lie. 

Reality was what we were told, what we were allowed to see and hear and what we were allowed to think. We lived in parallel universes that were only reconciled through pain, fear or, even worse, terror. 

I thought that I had left that world behind in 1983, when democracy returned to my country. Ironically, it is here, in Florida, that this alternate world has found me again today. Fortunately, this time is different because I do not need to live lies, I only suffer them.

Related: DEI’s future at USF: The question on everyone’s mind

I turn on the TV and I enter a world in which I am the indoctrinator I despise, the one who tells students what reality is and denies their existence. I am also criticized because I supposedly forbid students to be colorblind, as they are since birth, as though they had not faced the existence of colors, and their meaning, before ever setting a foot in my classroom. 

I watch a man repeat, in a hateful tone, that we should not board a plane if the pilots are all black – they were placed in that flight because of their color and not their merit! Strange: I am now discovering that I have been colorblind all along because this idea never occurred to me when I flew, and the pilots were black. 

Finally, the angry man explains who is responsible when we are all at risk in those planes, when we are colorblind and cannot understand that color means that we are in grave danger: diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the place where Florida goes to die.

Adriana Novoa (pcitured) is also the plaintiff in an active lawsuit against the Board of Trustees and the state BOG regarding the implementation of House Bill 7, also known as the “Stop Woke” act. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ADRIANA NOVOA

This time around I do not need to reconcile my world and the one of the hateful man in the TV through fear, let alone horror—only anger, sadness and disgust. 

Who is responsible for this alternative reality? I found out that the creator of this mess is an activist named Christopher Rufo, a man who studied at private elite universities and lives on the West Coast. He does not know, understand or care about the realities of Florida’s diverse student population, and the mission of Florida’s institutions of higher education, which includes public service. 

He is the one who trolled New College’s trans students and their parents with mean and adolescent tweets (sorry, Xs) about how they looked while they were speaking. Surprisingly, Florida’s authorities still allowed him to remain as a member of this college’s board. None of us faculty, would be so lucky if we dared to follow his example.

Related: USF replaced sociology as a gen ed requirement. What does that mean for students?

I discovered something else about this self-styled gladiator fighting the “DEI industry.” There was a time when he wanted to be a politician and campaigned, in an election he lost, with his wife. She explained that as an Asian woman she had moved to Seattle “for its culture of diversity, inclusion and economic opportunity.” 

Unfortunately, those who were not colorblind attacked her, and he complained about the “vile racist attacks” against her. Yes, there was a time in which the R word was real to him, a time in which he craved the diversity and inclusion that he is now destroying for Florida’s students who, like his wife, also experienced the reality of the letter R that those who are colorblind cannot see.

At the time I discovered this man, I did not know what to think. I related to his pain when his wife was attacked viciously not because of his horrible ideas, but because she was not white. I also agreed with him when he complained about “cancel culture”, and it was for this reason that I invited him to have a debate through a message I sent through Twitter. I offered to debate with him our ideas about education in Florida wherever he wanted and with no rules. Sadly, he blocked me, depriving me of the opportunity to reconcile his fantasy with my reality. One fact was clear, he is a hypocrite, an ambitious troll who dreams of becoming Che Guevara to wage his vanilla warfare in the jungles hidden in our libraries.

It now hits me that our wonderful system of higher education dies when he lies, and that the elimination of DEI is just one of the deaths. I am relieved that I converted to Catholicism to deal with a psychotic reality when I was 12 years old. I know resurrection is coming. Truth will make us free.

Adriana Novoa is a professor of Latin American History at USF. In 2022, Novoa was one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s Stop WOKE Act, which they said violated the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.