A bill backed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that would restructure higher education and eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs from college curriculum advanced in the state House.
Sponsored by state Rep. Alex Andrade, the bill, known as HB 999, was approved along a 12-5 party line vote by the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee Monday.
It now advances for discussion before the state Senate later this week.
As more than 150 people reportedly showed up to the House subcommittee hearing Monday to voice opposition to the legislation, Andrade stressed that it would not limit student activities no matter the political agenda.
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“I believe that state universities should be focused on teaching students how to think, not what to think,” he said, according to FloridaPolitics.com.
DeSantis, who hosted a DNI roundtable the same day as the subcommittee meeting, has categorized such programs as a drain on resources forcing faculty and students to comply with a far-left dogma, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel reported. The governor’s budget chief recently conducted a survey of the state’s 12 universities that found a combined $34.5 million went toward DEI programs and faculty. About $20.7 million came from the state, representing less than 1% of those universities’ budgets.
“And so that clearly has no place in American institutions,” DeSantis said at the roundtable. “It’s more something you would expect to see in like the CCP [Chinese Communist Party].”
The bill requires the Board of Governors to periodically review specified information related to state universities to ensure their curriculum aligns with the mission of offering a “curriculum that promotes citizenship in a constitutional republic” and that “state’s existing and emerging workforce needs.”
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Upon completion of the review, the board may “provide direction to each constituent university to remove from its programs any major or minor that is based on or otherwise utilizes pedagogical methodology associated with Critical Theory, including, but not limited to, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Radical Feminist Theory, Radical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Social Justice, or Intersectionality, as defined in Board of Governors regulation.”
The proposed legislation says state colleges should “model civic discourse that recognized the importance of viewpoint diversity, intellectual rigor, and an evidence-based approach to history.”
The bill says any Florida college system institution, state university or directly supported organization may not expend any state or federal funds to promote, support or maintain any programs or campus activities “that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion,” “promote or engage in political activism,” or spouse “preferential treatment or special benefits to individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.”
It also says a state university may not solicit or accept pledges to uphold statements or commitments “for or against certain viewpoints about diversity, equity, and inclusion, Critical Race Theory rhetoric, or political identity or ideology, as part of any hiring, promotion, disciplinary, or evaluation process.”
Critics who attended the subcommittee hearing argued the legislation would stifle academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of both students and faculty.
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“It is no different from the Republican Party’s censorship of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Alexis Dorman, a student at Florida State University whose grandmother is from Taiwan, said, according to the Sentinel. “Legislators who vote for this are fearful of the power of knowledge and no better than the CCP.”