Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill Monday that restricts how race and gender can be taught in Florida’s public institutions of higher education and prohibits them from using state or federal funds for diversity programs.
In a ceremony at the New College of Florida in Sarasota, DeSantis signed three bills that he said would give students foundational skills and prevent people from imposing orthodoxies on public universities. He marked an escalation of a broader conservative effort to limit the ways schools can teach about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“If you look at the way this has been implemented across the country, DEI is best seen as representing ‘discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,’ and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis said in his Monday remarks. “This bill says that the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida.”
Critics, however, say the bills, particularly Senate Bill 266, will censor teachers and make it harder to attract and support diverse populations in Florida schools. Andrew Gothard, president of the Florida United College, a union of faculty at Florida’s public universities, called the bill «authoritarian censorship» in a statement sent to NBC News.
«We believe in the free exchange of all ideas and we reject efforts to control what students can learn and what teachers have the right to teach,» Gothard said.
A DeSantis spokesperson referred NBC News to the governor’s news conference.
Senate Bill 266, which passed the Florida Legislature earlier this month, will prohibit state colleges and universities from using state or federal funds for programs that advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion or promote activism.
The bill also increases the study of Western civilization, directing universities to, where appropriate, provide instruction on the history and philosophy of Western civilization, particularly the nation’s founding documents. Requires that humanities courses include selections from the Western canon.
The bill bans core general education courses that «distort» historical events or teach «identity politics.» It requires the Board of Governors, the vast majority of which is appointed by DeSantis, to review each institution’s mission and make updates or revisions as deemed necessary. The Board should include in its review a directive on university programs that are «based on theories that racism, sexism, oppression, and systemic privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain inequalities.» social, political and economic.»
Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida, an anti-discrimination organization, said the bill represented a «war on academic freedom.»
«From today’s podium, he encouraged students who value academic freedom to seek educational opportunities elsewhere, cementing him as a governor who would rather scare away good talent than miss out on generating content for his right-wing acolytes,» he said. Wolf on DeSantis.
The Governor also signed House Bill 931that will prevent universities from requiring prospective students or faculty to pledge allegiance to any «ideology or movement,» including diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Collectively, the three bills dedicate millions of dollars to civic and employment education efforts. The laws will go into effect on July 1. Protesters chanted against DeSantis as he signed the bills into law, according to local news reports.
new schoolwhere DeSantis signed the measures, it had been considered a progressive institution before DeSantis installed conservative allies on the board of directors.