Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed legislation into law Monday to eliminate so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, in higher education.
State legislators on May 3 passed the bill, SB 266, to bar public colleges and universities from spending taxpayer dollars on DEI programs. The bill signing fulfills a promise DeSantis made in January to defund such programs on college campuses.
“What this does is reorient our universities back to their traditional mission, and part of that traditional mission is to treat people as individuals, not to try to divvy them up based on any type of superficial characteristics,” DeSantis said during a press conference at New College of Florida. “We’re going to elevate merit and achievement above identification with certain groups.”
The new law prohibits colleges and universities from using state or federal funding for programs or activities that “advocate[s] for diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism,” according to its text. The law also prohibits state institutions from requiring applicants to submit diversity statements as a condition of employment, admission, or promotions.
“DEI is better viewed as standing for ‘discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,’ and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis said. “This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs. We are going to treat people as individuals. We’re not going to treat people as members of groups.”
The new law also includes several additional reforms, including tasking the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors of the State University System with establishing faculty committees to ensure general education courses don’t “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics.”
Courses can’t be “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institution of the United States and were made to maintain social, political, and economic inequities,” the law stipulates.
“If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley, some of these other places, that’s fine,” DeSantis said. “If that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing wrong with that. … But for us, our tax dollars, we want to focus on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.”
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