DeSantis signs bill to defund DEI programs at Florida’s public colleges
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law Monday barring the state’s colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and limiting how race can be discussed in many courses.
The move comes amid a larger conservative attack on higher education DEI programs, which DeSantis and others say reinforce racial divisions and promote liberal orthodoxy. Supporters of the programs say they are critical to serving the nation’s increasingly diverse student populations.
“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,” DeSantis said at a news conference at New College of Florida in Sarasota. “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.”
Florida’s new law prohibits public colleges from spending state or federal money on DEI efforts. These programs often assist colleges in increasing student and faculty diversity, which can apply to race and ethnicity, as well as sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status.
The law also forbids public colleges from offering general education courses — those that are part of a required curriculum for all college students — that “distort significant historical events,” teach “identity politics,” or are “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities.”
The Florida legislation has been met with backlash at both the state and national level, where higher education experts and First Amendment advocates say the state is trampling on academic freedom. “It’s basically state-mandated censorship, which has no place in a democracy,” Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.
DeSantis said students who want to study “niche subjects,” such as critical race theory, ought to look elsewhere. “Florida’s getting out of that game,” he said. “If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley. Go to some of these other places.”
The governor held the signing on the campus of New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college in Sarasota, where the governor recently appointed a crop of conservative trustees. Eliminating New College’s DEI office was among the newly constituted board’s first orders of business.
The event drew protests, whose chants could be heard inside the bill-signing ceremony.