FIU student body prez says defending DEI is top priority

Combatting state DEI bans is a top priority for Florida International University's Student Government Association.

'FIU knows how important these programs are,' Student Government Association President Alexander Sutton said.

The Student Government Association (SGA) president at Florida International University (FIU) said that combatting the state’s ban on DEI was a top priority.

In his State of the Student Body address on Aug. 28, SGA President Alexander Sutton outlined his three major priorities for student government this year: defending DEI, reforming student government, and restoring Panther pride. 

Sutton called the state of the student body “dire.”

“I say that not to inspire any unnecessary anxiety or for dramatic effect, but because at FIU we face unprecedented challenges on a number of fronts that threaten to weaken our student body and disempower us as student leaders,” Sutton said, via the student newspaper PantherNOW. 

[RELATED: West Virginia bill would end DEI bureaucracy in public higher ed]

Sutton noted that the FIU SGA passed a resolution in February expressing support for DEI initiatives in the face of anti-woke legislation in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida Senate Bill 266 into law on May 15. The law prohibits funding DEI departments; but there are carveouts for student-led organizations, so long as they are funded by student fees. 

“This exemption only exists because of people like us,” Sutton said, via PantherNOW. “We lobby the state legislature to exempt our student organizations across Florida from this ban.”

“Here at FIU, we passed the Can’t Ban Us resolution expressing our desire for DEI initiatives to continue and our former student body president, Cris Lugo sat down face to face with the sponsor of SB 266, State Representative Alex Andrade, and lobbied him on our behalf,” he added. 

Going forward, Sutton said he aims to continue lobbying the state government.

President Sutton’s goal fails to represent the student body’s outlook on DEI. 

Jorge Collazo, a student at Florida International University, told Campus Reform “I agree with Governor DeSantis, I do not agree with President Sutton. President Sutton is focusing too much on diversification.” 

In response to Florida’s legislation, FIU’s student newspaper published an op-ed titled, “FIU cannot survive without DEI funding.” 

“DEI is a fundamental aspect at FIU that supports students and faculty of all ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities and expressions and religious beliefs,” the article stated, noting that the student body is composed of “underrepresented minority groups and international students.” 

Prior to the ban, FIU escalated DEI initiatives. The university implemented a DEI strategic plan in 2020, that “helped fund over 40 scholarships and fellowships for students of marginalized groups, and trained over 480 individuals on DEI subjects to further assist FIU’s melting pot,” stated PantherNOW’s op-ed.

[RELATED: University president claims DEI efforts are at the ‘core’ of the purpose of higher ed]

Pressure is now on FIU’s administration, implied SGA’s President Sutton. 

“FIU knows how important these programs are: I have full confidence in our university president, provost and senior leadership,” I know they believe in providing resources and community for all Panthers, said Sutton.” 

Campus Reform has contacted President Sutton and FIU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.