On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law banning the state’s public colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs.
At a ceremony at the New College of Florida in Sarasota, DeSantis signed three bills that he said would give students foundational skills and prevent people from imposing orthodoxies at public universities. DeSantis’ signing of SB 266 and HB 931 marks the latest escalation in a year-long effort to regulate how race and gender are addressed in educational institutions across the state.
The bill also augments the study of Western civilization, directing universities, whenever applicable, to provide instruction about the history and philosophy of Western civilization, particularly the nation’s founding documents. It requires that humanities courses include selections from the Western canon.
Referring to the initialism for “diversity, equity and inclusion,” 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,’ and that has no place in our public institutions. This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida.”
Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida, an anti-discrimination organization, said the bill represented a “war on academic freedom.”
“From the podium today, he encouraged students that value academic freedom to look for educational opportunities elsewhere, cementing him as a governor who would rather drive away good talent than miss an opportunity to generate content for his right-wing acolytes,” Wolf said of DeSantis.
The legislation also restricts how gender and race are going to be taught on campuses, requiring such lessons to be reviewed by the university trustees to prevent programs that “distort significant historical events” or teach “identity politics,” the governor said.
In fact, earlier this year, DeSantis appointed six new members to the school’s board of trustees, putting conservative allies in control of the board. He accused the school’s leadership of overemphasizing DEI, critical race theory and gender ideology, which he characterized as not “what a liberal arts education should be.”
DeSantis said Monday that he’s viewed DEI initiatives as a discriminatory practice and a “distraction” from a university’s core mission.
In addition, the new law also states that General education courses can’t “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics,” or critical race theory. This effort is part of DeSantis’ larger work to crack down on what he calls “woke indoctrination” in schools. And in the last two years, state education officials have rejected dozens of mathematics and social studies textbooks for students in K-12 schools.
Texas has been working on a similar bill banning DEI programs in its own state university system.
The law will go into effect on July 1.