Center for Environmental Equity and Justice exclusively taxpayer-funded to the tune of $1.79 million

While FAMU spent a total of $4.16 million of taxpayer funds on DEI initiatives, the CEEJ alone cost more than 43% of the school’s entire DEI budget.

'We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups,' Governor DeSantis said.

The recently-released report on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) spending within the State University System of Florida (SUSF) shows the “Center for Environmental Equity and Justice” (CEEJ) at Florida A&M University (FAMU) is entirely taxpayer-funded to the tune of $1.79 million. 

The CEEJ website, however, does not identify specific projects, initiatives, or research publications that have utilized these public funds, giving rise to the question of what, if anything, the millions of dollars are going towards.

The financial report initially released by the Independent Florida Alligator student publication at the University of Florida was generated in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ December 28 memorandum requiring that all public institutions in the state provide data on DEI and critical race theory spending, which Campus Reform previously reported.

While FAMU spent a total of $4.16 million of taxpayer funds on DEI initiatives, the CEEJ alone cost more than 43% of the school’s entire state-funded DEI budget.

[RELATED: Harvard Medical School ashamed of white male department heads]

The positions of Dean, Associate Full Professors, Director, Assistant Director, and Geospatial Analysts are listed in the SUSF financial report as being funded by the CEEJ.

FAMU, which is one of the leading public Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country, according to US Newsreported that the state legislature gave the school $70 million for its 2022-2023 operating budget.

The CEEJ website states that it serves as “an information resource center to increase the community, faith-based organizations, state and local government and any other interested parties’ awareness of environmental justice issues.”

Although the website lists in vague terms the ways in which it pursues its mission, it does not list any specific publications, projects, or initiatives that are sponsored through the CEEJ.

The website does advertise, however, a definition of environmental justice from well-known progressive commentator Van Jones, stating, “Environmental justice is the movement to ensure that no community suffers disproportionate environmental burdens or goes without enjoying fair environmental benefits.”

[RELATED: ‘Toe the line:’ Professor leaves academia as DEI corrupts STEM]

When Campus Reform spoke with the Dean of the School of the Environment (SOE), Victor Ibeanusi, he highlighted the work of several faculty members who engage in environmental justice research, but he was unwilling to answer questions concerning their connection to taxpayer funding through the CEEJ.

For example, Associate Professor Richard Gragg co-authored a paper that examines how internet map-making can “contribute to the environmental justice movement.”

His colleague, Associate Professor Ashvini Chauhan, is part of the “Microbes and Social Equity Working Group,” which intends to develop “public policy that supports sustainable, equitable, and microbial wealth for all.”

Again, it is unclear as to whether these research projects were connected to the public funds used for the CEEJ or if they are solely SOE faculty projects.

In addition to Floridian taxpayer funds, the SOE also receives federal research funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which keeps the SOE on the “forefront of training new generation of students in ecosystem characterization, ecological processes, forecasting and modeling, and human dimensions,” according to Ibeanusi.

Ibeanusi repeatedly declined to answer on the record for Campus Reform regarding the questionable overlap of CEEJ and SOE funding. 

The DeSantis Administration replied to Campus Reform’s prior coverage of the SUSF reporting by highlighting the following statement from DeSantis’ second inaugural address: 

“We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology.”

FAMU has not yet responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter