UCF students 'walkout' in response to DeSantis survey asking for transgender treatment information
University of Central Florida students coordinated a walkout on campus Thursday protesting school officials sending transgender students’ health information to the state.
In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent state universities a survey requesting the number and ages of students who sought gender dysphoria treatment, including sex reassignment surgery and hormone prescriptions.
The DeSantis administration did not respond to requests by the Associated Press as to why the state was seeking this information.
In response, student protesters with the activist group Stand for Freedom Florida coordinated walkout rallies on seven Florida university campuses Thursday afternoon, including about 200 students at UCF’s Memory Mall.
Their goal was to send a message to UCF president Alexander Cartwright that students don’t want the state to infringe on their freedoms or reduce diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, said Olivia Solomon, a UCF senior and the event’s lead organizer.
“We want him to make a statement and not just say that they protect freedom. We want to make a statement saying that we will not allow our DEI programs to go away without a fight and they will not comply with the governor,” she said. "(DeSantis) will not be able to get away with this we are here and we are fighting back. And if (he) wants to suppose we make Florida a free state, then (he) needs to allow DEI programs to exist, you need to allow state or queer and trans students to exist on campus and empower them because we know that that brings power in that brings freedom."
The state's survey is seen by some as an attack on student education and LGBTQ livelihoods, said freshman and event co-organizer, Benjamin Sandlin.
"Everyone probably knows a queer person, maybe their cousin, their brother, their sister, their child, their daughter, their parent. Everyone has a stake in this. And everyone knows someone that is at risk," he said. "Our goal is getting students to vote and getting our legislators and getting our people in power to know that we will not be quiet about this until everyone is fairly represented in education, we will not just stand idly by while our books are being swept from our classroom."
Dozens of students spoke up at the protests sharing their fears for the state of education. Former District Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith also spoke, encouraging students to register to vote.
"He demanded that all universities hand over detailed information about support services they provide for transgender students," Smith said during the rally. "These are life-saving support services offered not only at UCF but at state universities across the country so that transgender students can live happy lives as their authentic selves. And we support them in doing that."
Similar rallies were also coordinated at the University of South Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida A&M University, Florida International University, and the University of North Florida.