Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he intends to ban state universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, hoping they will “fall by the wayside” without funding.
“It does function as an ideological filter, a political filter,” the Republican said in a speech in Bradenton, Fla.
The proposal, which is at the top of DeSantis’ higher education agenda this year, also includes giving politically appointed presidents and college boards more power to hire and fire colleges and urging schools to focus their mission on Florida’s future labor demand. DeSantis, who is said to be weighing the possibility of a 2024 presidential run, has soared among conservatives across the country following his public positions on hot-button cultural and education issues.
In a news release about the announced legislation, the governor’s office called diversity, equity and inclusion programs “discriminatory” and vowed to prohibit universities from funding them, even if the source of funding is not from the state.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program is designed to promote multiculturalism and encourage students of all races and backgrounds to feel comfortable in the campus environment, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities. The state’s flagship university, 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 foreshadows a December mandate by the governor’s office that all state universities account for all their spending on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory.
DeSantis announced his higher education agenda in Bradenton, a 15-minute drive from The New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college where DeSantis has installed a controversial new board tasked with Transform the school into his conservative vision for higher education. DeSantis said his budget would include $15 million to restructure the new college and hire faculty.
The new board met Tuesday, sparking protests on campus.
Eddie Speir, one of DeSantis’ new board members, wrote in an online post that he planned to propose at that meeting “termination of all contracts for the school’s faculty, staff and administrators,” and “immediate re-opening.” Hire those faculty and administrative staff to adapt to the new financial and business model.”
DeSantis’ statement comes after the state’s two-year community college presidents pledged earlier this month not to teach critical race theory in a vacuum and “not to fund or support any institutional practice, policy or scholarship that enforces belief in critical race theory.” Requests made after “race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens for analysis and/or improved teaching. ”
The state’s education department described the move as a refusal to “wake up” to diversity, equity and inclusion [and] Critical race theory ideology. ”