Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he intends to ban state universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the hope that they will “drift on the vine” without funding.
“It really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter,” the Republican said while speaking in Bradenton, Florida.
The proposal is a top priority for DeSantis’ higher education agenda this year, which also includes giving politically appointed presidents and university boards more power over hiring and firing at universities and urge schools to focus their missions on Florida’s future workforce needs. DeSantis, who is said to be weighing a possible 2024 presidential bid, has seen his standing among conservatives across the country rise following his public stances on hot-button cultural and educational issues.
In a news release about the announced legislation, the governor’s office called diversity, equity and inclusion programs “discriminatory” and pledged to prohibit universities from funding them, even if the source of the money it does not come from the state.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs aim to promote multiculturalism and encourage students of all races and backgrounds to feel comfortable in a campus environment, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities. The state’s flagship school, the University of Florida, has a “Chief of Diversity,” a “Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement,” and an “Office of Accessibility and Gender Equity” .
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Tuesday’s announcement foreshadowed December when the governor’s office asked all state universities to account for all their spending on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion or critical theory. race
DeSantis announced his higher education agenda 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 remake the school in his conservative view of higher education. DeSantis said his budget will include $15 million to restructure New College and hire faculty.
The new board met Tuesday and sparked campus protests.
One of DeSantis’ new board members, Eddie Speir, wrote in an online post that he planned to propose at that meeting “terminating all contracts for the school’s faculty, staff and administration,” and immediately rehire those teachers, staff and administration that fit the new financial and business model.”
DeSantis’ announcement follows a pledge earlier this month by presidents of the state’s two-year community colleges not to teach critical race theory in a vacuum and to “not fund or support any practice institutional, political or academic requirement that obliges to believe in the critical aspects”. 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 education department characterized the move as a “shocking” rejection of diversity, equity and inclusion. [and] critical ideologies of race theory”.