Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb was elected to another two-year term on Nov. 9, 2023. Credit: State University System of Florida
The Florida Board of Governors voted Thursday to re-elect Brian Lamb as their chair for another two-year term. Lamb has overseen the state university system through a period of growth in national academic prestige but also polarization over culture war issues emphasized by the DeSantis administration.
Lamb, a managing director for JP Morgan Chase, was nominated by his fellow governor, Alan Levine, at the end of a meeting jam-packed with updates on the Florida Atlantic University and Florida Polytechnic University; the passage of controversial regulations on bathroom access and diversity, equity, and inclusion; and on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to ban Palestinians student groups from Florida campuses.
“I think you’ve been inclusive — not just to the board members but the presidents, the chairs of the boards of trustees, and you’ve been a heck of a representative for us, so I’m grateful for your last two years,” Levine said to Lamb.
Lamb then was put into the position of facilitating his own nomination as chair, which passed unanimously, followed by a standing ovation by those at the University of Central Florida’s Grand Ballroom.
Lamb’s new term will end on Dec. 31, 2025.
The governors approved two regulations to comply with new Florida legislation. Regulation 9.016, “Prohibited Expenditures,” bars universities from spending state or federal money to “advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion” or “promote or engage in political or social activism.”
The regulation defines state funds as those provided by the state legislature and do not include student fees to support student organizations, even “notwithstanding any speech or expressive activity by such organizations which would otherwise violate this section, provided that the student fees must be allocated to student-led organizations pursuant to written policies or regulations of each state university.”
Universities will have to enforce legislation mandating that gendered bathrooms only be used by members of the assigned biological sex after the passage of regulation 14.010, “Designation of Restrooms and Changing Facilities.”
The rule says universities must have “restrooms designated for exclusive use by females and restrooms designated for exclusive use by males,” or unisex restrooms; and that schools must adhere to a Florida statute that defines gender by biological sex.
The individual universities’ general counsels must determine how they will enforce both regulations and incorporate them into the student code of conduct.
The governors confirmed Richard Corcoran as full-time president of New College of Florida. Corcoran has served as interim president since DeSantis reshaped its board of trustees earlier this year; he previously was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Commissioner of Education.
Chancellor of the State University System Ray Rodrigues said that the chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida will not yet be kicked off campus.
On Oct. 24, Rodrigues issued a memo directing the presidents of UF and USF to deactivate the student-registered organizations after the national organization expressed support for Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 – called “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
He referred to a toolkit released by the National Students for Justice in Palestine that called for a “national day of resistance” after a historic win for the Palestinian resistance: across land, air, and sea.”
“We as Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement,” the toolkit went on.
Rodrigues wrote that it is a felony under Florida law to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization – which Hamas is to the United States – and thus, “National SJP has affirmatively identified it is part of the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood—a terrorist-led attack.”
However, after the universities with the SJP chapters on their campuses, Rodrigues said, the organizations affirmed to their respective administrations that they are not chartered and do not take direction from National SJP. The chancellor added that legal opinions sought by the universities raise concerns about potential legal liability for “university actors to deactivate the student-registered organization.” Still, the Board of Governors will now seek their own legal counsel.
Furthermore, the governors is demanding that the student chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine now follow three directives to stay active: reject violence, reject that they are part of the Hamas movement, and that they will follow state law.
The governors will meet again in January, where they are expected to discuss a proposal from Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. to eliminate sociology as an option to fulfill a collegiate general education requirement.
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