Over the past few months, the AFA Board of Directors and Central Office team have been actively monitoring the legislative landscape in the state of Florida, the host state of our 2023 Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL. While much of the legislation is in different stages of consideration, review, and/or enactment, the following concerns are becoming increasingly apparent:
- The landscape of how equity, inclusion, and diversity will be understood as an essential part of public education in Florida is changing in ways that will impact the work of higher education and of fraternity/sorority professionals in the state.
- A climate of safety and inclusion for LGBTQIA+ Florida residents and undocumented Florida residents is diminishing, further marginalizing already vulnerable populations and compromising their abilities to successfully live, work, and exist in the state.
Thank you to those who have shared your thoughts, offered perspectives, and asked difficult questions as we have continued to engage in thoughtful discussion around these issues. We, as always, are energized by our members’ commitment to the humanity inherent in our profession.
AFA continues to be clear about its commitment to Diversity Equity, Inclusion, and Access
, and the need to actively prioritize DEIA initiatives to create more equitable and diverse fraternity/sorority communities, specifically when those efforts are being called to question. Attempts to diminish or erase the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in student learning and student success are counter to what AFA actively believes.
As we navigate through the complex discussion of hosting the Annual Meeting in Florida, we must also acknowledge and respect our fiduciary duty as a board, while ensuring the Association is on a sustainable path toward long term success as defined by our mission. We have explored the impact of multiple scenarios on the health of our Association, up to and including the cancellation of our agreement. Cancellation of our agreement at this time would result in a financial penalty of approximately $360,000 (over 35% or AFA’s annual revenue budget), and we would likely incur additional costs to relocate the event; this amount further increases the closer we get to the Annual Meeting. Deciding to cancel and relocate our Annual Meeting at this time would likely mean a substantial increase in cost for attendees in a new location, diminishing any efforts around access and affordability to the conference. This would also likely yield a reduction in service to AFA members and to the higher education and interfraternal communities for an extended time period, including but not limited to potential reductions in staff, technology, partnerships, and essential professional development.
For those reasons, we are choosing to move forward with holding our Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL. We understand the inherent difficulty layered in this decision, and are turning our attention toward how we are uniquely positioned to make an impact while we prepare to arrive on-site. Our continued goal is to offer intellectual spaces for professionals to engage in ways that may no longer exist on Florida campuses.
We are committed to ensuring every Annual Meeting attendee can experience our professional community to the fullest extent we can provide. With that, we have directed our staff to place a stronger exploratory focus on the following:
- To identify ways in which AFA can utilize this moment to impact professional development and to engage Florida-based civic leaders, educators, and policy experts in the professional development and education offered at the Annual Meeting;
- To create and implement stronger bias incident prevention and response protocols for our Annual Meeting that can help to increase attendee safety and to set stronger community expectations for how we engage with each other; and,
- To create a strategy for how we can build space to gather and discuss how our profession can continue to elevate our professional practice in the face of these efforts more intentionally.
We also want to underscore the continued commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity demonstrated by the City of Tampa. Tampa consistently ranks in the top 20 most diverse cities in the nation, consistently ranks high on municipal equality indices, and has substantial ordinance protections in place protecting human rights.
We will continue to monitor the legislative landscape in the state of Florida, and we invite our members and Annual Meeting attendees to offer suggestions on the ways in which we can maximize our time together in Tampa. We expect our team to report back to us in the coming weeks and months around the previously mentioned areas, and will share those with our professional community as updates by no later than the close of July.
The Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Board of Directors
Noah Borton, President
Brian Warren, Treasurer
Tara Fuller, Secretary
Dr. Kevin W. Bailey
Dr. Francisco Lugo
Dr. Carolyn Whittier, AFA Foundation Chair, Ex-Officio
Jason Bergeron, Executive Director, Ex-Officio
For those further interested in understanding the current legislative landscape surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion, join AFA, Fraternity/Sorority Law Group, and TA Strategies for our semi-annual ‘Fraternity/Sorority Legal & Legislative Update’ on Wednesday, May 17 @ 1:00 PM ET. Interested attendees can register here.