Feb 24, 2023 - News

GOP goes after DEI degrees

Illustration of a cracked mortar board.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A new bill calls for the removal of degrees in critical race theory (CRT), gender studies, and other majors and minors that promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) from Florida's public colleges.

Why it matters: In Gov. Ron DeSantis' war on "woke" in schools, state Republicans are attacking CRT and DEI from all angles to assure the teachings are removed from schools.

Details: House Bill 999, filed Tuesday by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola), would give the Board of Governors the ability to direct public universities to remove majors and minors in critical race theory, gender studies, intersectionality or "any derivative major or minor of these beliefs systems."

Between the lines: This law would fill any higher education gaps not covered by last year's "Stop WOKE Act," which bans classroom discussion and corporate training that make students or employees feel discomfort over their race.

  • It also threatens state colleges and universities that don't take action against faculty who violate the law with the loss of millions in state funding.

Flashback: In November, a federal judge temporarily blocked the "Stop WOKE Act" from being enforced in higher education, calling it "positively dystopian," after a lawsuit from a group of professors and students from the University of South Florida.

  • The DeSantis administration appealed the decision, which is expected to be heard later this year.

What they're saying: DeSantis has been pushing back on what he called higher education's use "to impose ideological conformity, to try to promote political activism."

  • "Instead we need our higher education to focus on promoting academic excellence, the pursuit of truth, and to give students the foundation to think for themselves," the governor said last month in Bradenton.

The other side: UCF professor Jonathan Cox told ProPublica last month that after canceling his two fall courses on race, he's committed to teaching “Race and Ethnicity” this term, and as long as he can.

  • "I just decided, ‘I’m not going to run from it.’ This is what I teach. This is what I study. There’s tremendous value in students learning about these things.”

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