Governor DeSantis on Tuesday announced a legislative proposal to eliminate programs, courses, and bureaucracies dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT) at public Florida universities on the grounds that taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize harmful, divisive ideologies.
"We are going to eliminate all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine," he said at a press conference. The removal of such departments, he suggested, will serve as an "ideological filter" and "political filter" for the schools.
The proposed legislation would prohibit DEI spending in state university budgets, which would effectively starve DEI departments of resources, giving them no choice but to discontinue classes and fire administrators.
The bill must pass both chambers of the state legislature. The upcoming legislative session begins in March. The Republican-controlled body already enacted the Stop WOKE Act, which prohibits school districts, colleges, universities, and companies from inserting critical race theory teachings into student curricula or staff programming. That legislation, currently in litigation, defined what DEI initiatives are to be outlawed.
For example, the Stop WOKE Act says that "the criteria for admission to a program or course shall not have the effect of restricting access by persons of a particular race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or marital status." It will constitute unlawful discrimination, according to the text, for colleges to teach in any fashion that "members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex."
The administration has not specified which majors and disciplines, positions, and departments it aims to outlaw, although it has promoted classical curricula and pedagogy over the mainstream postmodern approach, which has yielded majors like Gender Studies. Florida State University offers a major in Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, for example. The college's English department also has a Queer Studies reading group,
"We don't want our students to go through [college] at taxpayer expense and graduate with a degree in Zombie studies," DeSantis said Tuesday.
DeSantis's new proposal will realign college core course requirements to be "rooted in the values of liberty and the western tradition," according to a press release. Such courses would need to "be based on providing a strong educational foundation, and not promote ideological indoctrination."
"We want to make sure that everybody who goes to a Florida university has to take certain core course requirements that's really focused on giving them the foundation so they can think for themselves," DeSantis said Tuesday. "And the core curriculum must be grounded in the actual history, actual philosophy that has shaped western civilization."
The legislation would mandate that universities prioritize graduating students in useful disciplines that prepare them for high-wage jobs.
The legislation would also forbid universities from asking job candidates to demonstrate their commitment to DEI in a declaration or statement as part of their hiring. State colleges will also not be permitted to support any campus activity or programs related to DEI or CRT.
Under the proposed bill, three institutes at major Florida public universities would be reoriented to provide programming and curricula focusing on constitutionalism. The centers include the Hamilton Center at the University of Florida, the Adam Smith Center at Florida International University, and the Florida Institute of Politics at Florida State University.
Last month, DeSantis unveiled a strategy to reorient the New College of Florida, a small liberal arts school that he believes has been led astray by progressive ideologues in recent years, by appointing a conservative majority to its board of trustees. DeSantis chief of staff James Uthmeier told National Review that the administration intends to convert the college to a classical model akin to that of Hillsdale College.
"It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida's classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South," he said.
Hillsdale explicitly rejects the neo-Marxist school of thought embraced much of higher education, including the notion that white supremacy is intrinsic to America's national fabric and that positive discrimination is necessary to rectify historical racial injustice.
Many of DeSantis's six appointees to New College are well-known conservatives. Matthew Spalding is vice president of the graduate school of government at Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C. and has published books on the Constitution and the Founding. Another appointee, Christopher Rufo, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute best known for his activism against critical race theory in K-12 education, corporations, and higher education.
Starting Thursday, Rufo will be releasing one report per week exposing "what's happening in the DEI departments" in Florida, he said at the press briefing Tuesday. "I'm going to warn you, it's pretty ugly stuff."
"They take the ideologies of critical race theory, radical gender theory. They divide the world into oppressor and oppressed and then they train students, faculty, and staff members" in this worldview, Rufo said. He claimed that some Florida colleges offer scholarships that discriminate on the basis of race and bar white students from applying.
"Last time I checked that should be illegal under the Civil Rights Act, but they're doing it and they're doing it very publicly," he added.
Rufo claimed that some state colleges conduct training designed to make white students feel guilty for their whiteness. At Florida State University, Rufo alleged, Christian students are "shamed," blamed for "religious oppression," and asked to atone for their "Christian privilege."
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