DeSantis proposes banning diversity and inclusion initiatives at Florida universities


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he plans to ban the state’s universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, hoping they will “wither on the vine” without funding.

“It really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter,” the Republican said, speaking in Bradenton, Florida.

The proposal is a top priority of DeSantis’ higher education agenda this year, which also includes giving politically appointed presidents and university boards of trustees more authority over university hiring and firing, and encouraging schools to focus their missions on Florida’s future workforce needs. DeSantis, who is believed to be considering a potential 2024 presidential run, has seen his standing among conservatives rise across the country following his public stances on cultural and educational issues.

In a press release announcing the legislation, the governor’s office called diversity, equity and inclusion programs “discriminatory” and vowed to ban universities from funding them, even if the source of the money is not the state.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs are designed to promote multiculturalism and encourage students of all races and backgrounds to feel comfortable on campus, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities. The state’s flagship school, the University of Florida, has a “Chief Diversity Officer,” a “Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement,” and an “Office of Accessibility and Gender Equity.”

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Tuesday’s announcement was anticipated in December, when the governor’s office asked all public universities to account for all their spending on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory.

DeSantis announced his higher education program in Bradenton, a 15-minute drive from New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college where DeSantis has installed a controversial new board with a mandate to transform the school into his conservative vision of higher education. DeSantis said his budget would include $15 million to restructure New College and hire faculty.

The new board met Tuesday, sparking campus protests.

Eddie Speir, one of DeSantis’ new board members, wrote in an online post that he plans to propose at that meeting to “terminate all contracts with the school’s faculty, staff and administration,” “and immediately hire those faculty, staff and administration that fit into the new financial and business model.”

DeSantis’ announcement follows a pledge earlier this month by the presidents of the state’s two-year community colleges not to teach critical race theory in a vacuum and “not to fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that promotes belief in critical race theory or related concepts, such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning is analyzed and/or improved.

The state Department of Education described the move as a rejection of “woke” diversity, equity and inclusion. [and] ideologies of critical race theory.


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