Ron DeSantis-controlled Disney World District scraps diversity and equity initiatives


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Diversity, equity and inclusion programs were abolished Tuesday from the Walt Disney World governorate, which is now controlled by appointed officials from Gov. Ron DeSantis, in line with the Florida Gov.’s agenda for the he has committed himself restrict such programs in higher education and elsewhere.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District said in a statement that its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and all associated job responsibilities would be eliminated. Also eliminated were initiatives that dated back to when the borough was controlled by Disney supporters who awarded contracts based on the goal of achieving racial or gender parity.

Glenton Gilzean, the new district administrator, an African American and former Central Florida Urban League leader, called such initiatives “illegal and just plain un-American.” Gilzean has been a fellow or member of two conservative institutions, the James Madison Institute and the American Enterprise Institute Leadership Network, and a DeSantis appointee on the Florida Commission on Ethics.

“Our district will no longer engage in attempts to divide us by race or to promote the notion that we are not created equal,” Gilzean said in a statement. “As a former leader of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can definitely say that our community only thrives when we work together despite our differences.”

An email has been sent from Disney World requesting comment.

Last spring, DeSantis, who is running for the GOP’s presidential nomination, signed into law A measure This prevents public colleges from using federal or state funding for diversity programs.

DeSantis has also championed Florida’s so-called “Stop WOKE” law, which bans corporations, colleges, and K-12 schools from offering training on certain racial concepts, such as the theory that people of a certain race are inherently racist, privileged, or are suppressed. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the law in colleges, universities and businesses last November. call it “positively dystopian.”

The formation of what was then known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District was pivotal in Disney’s decision to build a theme park resort near Orlando in the 1960s. Because it had its own government, the company was able to provide zoning, fire protection, utility, and infrastructure services on its expansive property. The district was controlled by Disney supporters for more than five decades.

Richard Foglesong, a professor emeritus at Rollins College, said he was surprised the matter was decided internally and not through a public vote by the five DeSantis-appointed members of the district board, who had repeatedly promised to be more transparent than their predecessors.

“This is a matter of public importance,” said Foglesong, who authored a comprehensive account of Disney World governance in his book Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando.

DeSantis officers took control of the renamed district earlier this year after a year-long feud between the Company and DeSantis. The fight began last year after Disney was harassed by significant pressure They publicly opposed, both internally and externally, a state law that bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, policy critics have argued “Don’t say gay.”

As a punishment, DeSantis took over the district through legislation passed by Republican lawmakers, and appointed a new board of directors to oversee municipal services to the sprawling theme parks and hotels. Disney sued DeSantis and its five board members in federal court, alleging that the Florida governor’s retaliation violated the company’s right to free speech.

Before the new board came in, Disney made arrangements with previous board members who were Disney supporters that stripped the new managers of their authority over design and development. The DeSantis-appointed members of the county have sued Disney in state court in a second lawsuit related to the county’s acquisition, seeking to void those agreements.

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP

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