FORT MYERS, Fla. — A bill passed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May is changing the way students learn about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) this school year.
More than 15,000 students are on campus at Florida Gulf Coast University for the fall semester. Now, just weeks after classes began, the students and staff are feeling the effects of Senate Bill 266.
“When I came to this country, it is the first time that I realized I am black," said Peter Ndiangui, Assistant Professor for the College of Education. "When I was in Kenya, I was treated like a Kenyan, a Kikuyu man, and this is the first time that people categorized me by the color of my skin. I think we should be seeing each other as members of the human race."
As chair of the DEI Committee for the College of Education, Ndiangui believes these laws could have negative effects on mental health.
“Think about it… If I feel that I don’t belong, am I going to feel productive? Am I going to feel respected?" said Ndiangui. "I will still come to work, but I will be a depressed person. I'll become stressed. These are not the type of people you want to have in an organization.”
The bill also creates guidelines for how schools educate students on historically significant events and topics like Critical Race Theory.
“They’re good topics to discuss but at the right levels, so you cannot ban them," said Ndiangui.
In May, protests against the bill from New College of Florida in Sarasota led to even more attention on the issue.
"DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination and that has no place in our public institutions," said Governor Ron DeSantis in May 2023.
Fox 4 reached out to FGCU's Black Student Alliance but has not receive a statement or a reply at this time.
“When you tell someone that their history is not important, you’re telling me that I do not matter," said Ndiangui. "I feel like I don’t belong to that environment, because you made me feel like that."
The laws are in place as of July 1, 2023. However, even with the changes, Professor Ndiangui said he's not worried, because the truth of history will prevail.