“Florida is getting out of that game,” DeSantis said while signing a bill at New College of Florida in Sarasota. “If you want to do something like gender ideology, go to Berkeley — go to some other place.”
Florida Republicans argue that higher education reforms should strengthen the state’s colleges and universities. But faculty members and Democrats railed against the policies during the 2023 legislative session, arguing the changes would violate academic freedom principles and hinder the recruitment and enrollment of students and faculty.
The central law was passed on Monday. FL SB 266 (23R)Florida prohibits schools from spending state or federal funds on most programs or campus activities that support diversity and inclusion policies or promote political or social activism.
Under the bill’s sweeping changes, Florida colleges are set to undergo a statewide review of courses and courses that emphasize “systemic racism, sexism, oppression and privilege” in American society. It’s prompting officials to reconsider what level of courses should be available to students that tell those lessons or “distort significant historical events” and could eventually lead to the “removal, alignment, reorganization or addition” of courses.
The move builds on last year’s stop-vog law that DeSantis pushed to limit how subjects about race and gender can be taught — policies that Florida is currently barred from pursuing as a legal challenge in federal court.
Critics argue the bill gives more power to the state university system’s board of governors, which is filled with DeSantis appointees, and “politicizes higher education.”
“This is a devastating piece of legislation that targets diverse students like me and their ability to thrive at institutions of higher education,” state Rep. Anna Escamani (D-Orlando) said in a statement. “It stifles academic freedom and injects conservative political orthodoxy into the classroom.”
DeSantis signed the new college into law amid ongoing restructuring of the university led by governor-appointed trustees. Under new leadership, New College eliminated its diversity, equity and inclusion programming earlier this year — a precedent that other universities would soon experience under the DeSantis administration. Republican lawmakers agreed to give the new college an additional $34 million this year to help fulfill DeSantis’ mission to transform the campus into a more conservative-leaning “classical” liberal arts school.
Some students soon gathered on campus to protest Monday’s appearance by DeSantis, lawmakers and state officials like new college trustee and conservative activist Christopher Ruffo. Loud protests by demonstrators, a common occurrence during trustee meetings, drew derision from lawmakers and officials who characterized it as a “kindergarten-level protest.”
“I believe [with] With the money we gave you, we could build outdoor classrooms for your drama students,” state Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), the Senate’s education budget chairman, said Monday.
DeSantis signed on Monday FL HB 931 (23R) To prevent schools from requiring “political allegiance tests” in hiring or admissions and trying to stir up more debate among students. As an example of this, Republicans during the session cited a Florida Atlantic University report asking medical students how they can “play an active role” in addressing and eliminating systemic racism.
In advocating for higher education reforms, DeSantis and other Republicans disagree that the terms diversity, equity and inclusion have been “hijacked” by the left and “used as a club to pacify things.”
“When taxpayers fund these organizations, we as Floridians and we as taxpayers have every right to insist that they pursue a mission that is consistent with the best interests of our people and our state,” DeSantis said Monday. .
“You take taxpayer dollars and do what you want to do and don’t think it’s somehow right.”
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