Florida Governor Bans Public Universities from Using State Funds for Diversity and Equity Programs

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that bans public universities in the state from using state funds to pay for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.[0] The legislation also prohibits curriculums that teach “identity politics” or “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities”. This is aimed at curtailing education about critical race theory, which is a way of thinking about US history through the lens of racism.

During a news conference at New College of Florida in Sarasota, DeSantis said, “If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination.[1] Such behavior is not acceptable in our public institutions.[2] He added that the legislation will reorient universities back to their traditional mission of treating people as individuals, not to try to divvy them up based on any type of superficial characteristics.[3]

However, the move has been met with criticism. State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) called it a “destructive law” that targets diverse students and suppresses academic freedom.[4] The United Faculty of Florida also opposed the measure, with its president, Andrew Gothard, saying that DeSantis’ signing of the bill shows the governor’s “authoritarian approach” to education.[5]

The bill also prohibits the use of paycheck deductions for most public-sector union dues and increases the required employee membership to 60%, potentially decertifying a union that can’t meet that threshold.[6] This weakens public-sector unions as without automatic payroll deduction, unions have a harder time collecting the dues they need to function effectively.[7]

DeSantis signed the legislation at New College of Florida, where he has been steering a conservative takeover.[8] Earlier this year, he replaced six members of the college’s board of trustees with conservative allies.[9] The move has led to the abolishment of the school’s DEI office and the firing of the diversity dean, which could be a precursor to what other Florida universities may experience under the new legislation.[10]

In addition to the ban on DEI programs, DeSantis signed a Teachers’ Bill of Rights that provides educators with wide-ranging authority to govern their classrooms and protections to teachers whose school or school district asks them to break the law.[6] He also signed a separate bill that prevents colleges and universities from requiring “political loyalty” tests for students and employees as a condition of admission or employment.[5]

0. “DeSantis bans state funding for diversity, inclusion programs at Florida public universities” Fox News, 15 May. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ron-desantis-bans-state-funding-diversity-inclusion-programs-florida-public-universities

1. “Ron DeSantis bans universities from spending money on diversity teaching” The Telegraph, 16 May. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/05/15/ron-desantis-war-on-woke-diversity-colleges

2. “DeSantis curtails diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida state colleges” WPBF West Palm Beach, 15 May. 2023, https://www.wpbf.com/article/desantis-curtails-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-programs-in-florida-state-colleges/43895637

3. “FAU students fear new diversity, equity, inclusion law will make Florida less welcoming” WPTV News Channel 5 West Palm, 15 May. 2023, https://www.wptv.com/news/education/fau-students-fear-new-diversity-equity-inclusion-law-will-make-florida-less-welcoming

4. “DeSantis bans funding for Florida college diversity programmes” Al Jazeera English, 15 May. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/15/desantis-bans-funding-for-florida-college-diversity-programmes

5. “Gov. DeSantis signs 3 education bills that include targeting diversity programs at Florida universities” FOX 13 Tampa, 15 May. 2023, https://www.fox13news.com/news/gov-ron-desantis-signs-bill-targeting-diversity-programs-at-state-universities

6. “DeSantis signs public union restrictions law, social media ban” Tallahassee Democrat, 9 May. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/09/desantis-signs-public-union-restrictions-law-social-media-ban-florida/70198566007

7. “DeSantis Ramps Up His Attack on Florida’s Public Sector Unions” Truthout, 14 May. 2023, https://truthout.org/articles/desantis-ramps-up-his-attack-on-floridas-public-sector-unions/

8. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill banning diversity, equity and inclusion spending at Florida public colleges” New York Daily News, 15 May. 2023, https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ny-desantis-ban-diversity-equity-inclusion-spending-colleges-20230515-27i77pqwobfjpb3ky52uf5c4xa-story.html

9. “DeSantis signs bill to defund DEI programs at Florida public colleges” CNN, 15 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/15/politics/desantis-signs-dei-defunding-bill/index.html

10. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mocks protesters, bans diversity funding” USA TODAY, 15 May. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/05/15/florida-gov-ron-desantis-mocks-protesters-bans-diversity-funding/70219124007/

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