Florida students organize to defend
affirmative action from Connerly, Gov. Jeb Bush
In Motion Magazine: I understand that Ward Connerly has brought his anti-affirmative action campaign to Florida. What is going on?
Jocelyn Moore: Ward Connerly is still getting signatures for his Civil Rights Initiative here in the state of Florida. I think everyone anticipates that it will be on the ballot in November for the citizens of the state of Florida to vote on. To counter that there is a FREE initiative also going on in the state. FREE is working very diligently to get petitions signed to put an initiative on the ballot to counter Connerly's Civil Rights Initiative.
In addition to these two ballot initiatives there is One Florida. One Florida was initiated by Governor Bush. One Florida, in their opinion, is intended to combat Ward Connerly. The way that they view it is Ward Connerlys initiative is going to pass in the state of Florida, regardless, and they want to implement a policy so that when the Civil Rights Initiative passes we already have policies in place in our state university system to take out race as a factor in the admissions process -- but still maintain some level of diversity by using other criteria.
That is their take on this issue, but obviously theres a lot of controversy surrounding One Florida and whether it will be helpful in maintaining a diverse student body population.
In Motion Magazine: It sounds like the situation has become quite complicated since Connerly originally announced his intentions in Florida.
Jocelyn Moore: They are pretty complicated here which is the reason we are having so many heated debates across the state. One Florida was railroaded in. We first heard about it in October. The next week, the Board of Regents was supposed to vote on it. Obviously, not only had the chancellor and the governor been talking about this plan for a number of months but they made sure it wasnt leaked to the public, so that once the governor came out and did the big press release about it the Regents would be voting on it the next week. Without any type of input from the people of the state of Florida. Without any input from students. Without any input from faculty members. Without any input from community leaders -- and no input from minority populations who this obviously effects the most.
After the sit-in a couple of weeks ago, by state Representative Tony Hill and state Senator Kendrick Meek, the governor was quoted as saying we are going forward with the One Florida initiative, were going to push this through because we are working for the people and this is what the people want. Well, he didnt engage the population before implementing this plan. It went the other way around, in that the Board of Regents voted on the plan, a framework, a skeleton of a plan, with no clear guidelines as to how we were going to go about implementing it in our institutions of higher education. Then, after the vote, the governor appointed a task force to make recommendations to the Board of Regents as to how this policy would be implemented statewide. In my opinion, that is putting the cart before the horse.
We have a broad and sweeping policy that no-one knows anything about, because the people have not been given the opportunity to voice their concerns or opinions. To be part of the input process. But, as you know, dialogue is very important. This is a democratic nation, we go on democracy so to speak. The fact that no one had an opportunity to say anything about this, to voice any concerns, takes away from the process of democracy and the idea that people have a voice in their government.
Now, of course, after the sit-in the governor has agreed to several public forums - one in Tampa, one in Miami and one in Tallahassee. But I honestly believe these public forums are just a concession and not really anything serious. I think the governor is dead set on implementing One Florida regardless of the opinions of the people.
In Motion Magazine: So what do you see as the results of the actions of Governor Bush and Connerly.
Jocelyn Moore: It is not the same as California and Texas. One Florida does not do the same thing that Ward Connerly's Civil Rights Initiative would do. One Florida eliminates race as a factor in the admissions process. Connerly's Initiative would eliminate race as a factor not only in admissions, but also in financial aid consideration.
But also, the governor plans to implement the Talented 20 Percent. The Talented 20 Percent makes a guarantee to all high school students, regardless of high school ranking, whether their school is an A school, B school, C school, D school or F school, regardless. The Talented 20 Percent says that the top twenty percent from all those schools are guaranteed admission into a school in the state university system.
Well, obviously thats still not an equitable process. Opportunity does not equal access. Even though students at a D or F school now have the opportunity to attend a state university system school, there are still barriers that limit their decision to come to a state university school like the University of Florida. For many of these students it will still be more advantageous to attend a community college thats located in their community as to opposed to going away to a state school.
The Talented 20 Percent creates a receptacle effect among the state university system schools because those students from the D and F schools, and 70 percent of all minority students who are in high school in the state of Florida attend D and F rated schools, those students will never be able to get into the University of Florida because the University of Florida, Florida State and the University of South Florida (USF) are all selective institutions.
The University of Florida is a tier one institution. I dont know if you know, but our state university system is divided into tiers now. We are tier one, research one, we are at the top of the hierarchy, so to speak, so the University of Florida if it chooses would never ever have to look at a student from a B school, C school, D school, or an F school. We could pick all of our students from an A school because thats the type of admissions criteria we have.
The perception now is, and we saw this perception in Texas, and we saw this perception in California, the perception is if Im a minority student in high school, if I look at the state of Florida Im going to think that the state of Florida is anti-diversity. Its anti-diversity, and if Im a top student Im definitely not staying in the state of Florida when I can get top dollars as far as financial aid packages out side of the state. Our ability to recruit students that are minority students in this state is significantly hindered by the new perception that because of One Florida, the state of Florida is anti-diversity. What will happen at UF and what will happen at Florida State is our numbers are going to necessarily drop. The seventy percent of minority students, those students who are graduating from D and F schools, are going to go to schools like FIU, FAU, and FAMU (Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University) -- schools that are on lower tiers.
Yes, there are greater number of minority students in the system, but is the ultimate goal to just have these students going to school? They are not going to get to go to schools of their choice. I think that is a misconception. They are not all going to be able to come to the University of Florida, or Florida State. There will be a huge receptacle effect, and the schools on the lower tiers are going to get the majority of the minority students, while the schools on the upper tiers are going to lose numbers as far as minority enrollment.
In Motion Magazine: What is this sit-in you mentioned?
Jocelyn Moore: There was a sit-in this past Tuesday when two state legislators sat-in in Lieutenant Governor Brogans office. The legislators were State Representative Tony Hill and state Senator Kendrick Meek. They are Black legislators, both democrats, and both believe that One Florida is not a good initiative, that the interests of the people of the state of Florida have not been taken into consideration.
There were a number of reporters who stayed all night with them. Governor Bush was caught on camera saying kick their asses out, and it ran all over the state of Florida. He tried to go back and say that he wasnt talking about them - but it was quite obvious that he was. They were refused food and water for quite some time. It was a 25-hour sit-in. Finally the governor met with them and made the concession that he would hold these public forums all over the state.
In Motion Magazine: What are students doing?
Jocelyn Moore: At the University of Florida the student government has appointed a task force to try and understand how this will impact our university, and to find ways to maintain a diverse student population, to work with the administration to do just that.
Also, we took a busload of university students to Jacksonville where the Board of Regents meeting took place to speak during the public forum. Other universities brought students down also. We plan to go to the public forum in Tallahassee.
The meeting was standing room only. We had signs. There were a lot of students All ten universities in the system brought their students, the student body presidents, the student body vice-presidents, other student government officials, other interested students - a lot of people. I anticipate there will also be a lot of people at this next Board of Regents meeting.
In Motion Magazine: What do you think will happen next?
Jocelyn Moore: Quite frankly, I think it will be discouraging for the citizens of this state, and students in the state university system. I really believe that the Regents are going to vote on this regardless. That says a lot about how the political process here in the state of Florida works. I think what we will be left doing is trying to figure out how to retain our quality of life, our diverse student body populations at our individual institutions.
In Motion Magazine: Is the student government working with any particular student organizations or community institutions?
Jocelyn Moore: We work with all kinds of student organizations on our campus - we have over 500 - like the Black Student Union, the Hispanic Student Association, independent students who are interested and want to do something about it. There are a lot of students who are interested. A lot of students have been e-mailing, calling, and faxing not only the governor, but the Board of Regents members, trying to let them know their opinions and thoughts on One Florida.
In Motion Magazine: Students are united around this?
Jocelyn Moore: What we have against us on large college campuses is most students are complacent and apathetic and really just come to college to graduate. Thats something that we fight against every day. I dont know how much I can say that students around the state are rallying against this. Everyone is still reeling from the fact that this happened so quickly and we are trying to figure out what to do. The governor has presented a united front, everyone is so ready to go in and vote on this thing. I think that is discouraging for a lot of people. But you have to continue the fight regardless of the outcome. Dont be like the governor and his crew, dont just assume that Ward Connerly is going to win on the ballot. I think that the students have to remember that we have to go in there and fight regardless.
|Published in In Motion Magazine February 28, 2000.
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