Florida governor Ron DeSantis pulls all funding for diversity programs in public colleges

SARASOTA, FL - MAY 15: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks after signing three education bills on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota, Fla. on Monday, May 15, 2023. (Photo by Thomas Simonetti for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has banned tax dollars from being used to fund diversity, equality and inclusion programmes at public universities in the state. 

The Republican politician, who has made a name for himself rallying against anything ‘woke’, signed Senate Bill 266 into law on Monday (16 May) at New College in Sarasota. 

“In Florida, our higher education institutions will not be spending public dollars on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” or other initiatives that promote an ideological agenda,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter.

“As practiced, DEI represents discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination — and this has no place in a public institution.” 

The Florida governor also added: “We have seen examples of schools requiring students and professors to commit to DEI and CRT theories before they are admitted or hired at a university – a de facto political loyalty oath.

“DEI can no longer be used as a woke litmus test as a condition of entrance into higher education in Florida.” 

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The bill enables Florida officials to regularly review what is being taught at colleges in the state, looking for anything “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities”. 

If such topics are found, the officials have the ability to remove content from the curriculum. 

Andrew Gothard, the president of the United Faculty of Florida and professor at Florida Atlantic University, described slammed the bill in a statement.

“Today, we saw a governor who believes that viewpoint discrimination, the undermining of constitutional rights, compelling speech from students and faculty, and censoring ideas he disagrees with are somehow acceptable in a democratic society,” he wrote.

Democrat and DeSantis critic Anna V. Eskamani described the bill as “destructive” and said it targets students like herself and “our ability to thrive in higher education institutions.”

“It also suppresses academic freedom and inserts conservative political orthodoxy into the classroom,” she added.

DeSantis creating a conservative education system

The new law is part of wide-ranging educational upheavals brought forth by DeSantis, who has sought to remove LGBTQ+ and racial content from Florida’s schools and colleges ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run. 

In 2022, the right-wing politician signed the vague Stop WOKE Act – its full title the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act – which prohibits effectively diversity training which could suggest people have unconscious privilege.  

“A person should not be instructed that he or she must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” the legislation reads

Also in 2022, DeSantis brought forth his Don’t Say Gay bill, which bans classroom discussions of gender and sexuality topics and has been expanded multiple times to cover all grades

Equally vague, activists have blasted the legislation enforcing self-censorship of teachers, who may be worried about falling foul of the law and so no mention they are LGBTQ+, have a same-sex partner or share certain kinds of media in the classroom.

One teacher is currently under investigation by the state of Florida’s education department after being reported for showing Disney Strange World, an animated film which has a gay character. 

Students at New College, a public liberal arts college, did not take DeSantis’ recent appearance on their campus lying down. 

Several past and present students turned out to protest the bill, as well as the governor. 

Images shared on Twitter show protesters holding signs which read “fascists not welcome” and “what happened to freedom of expression”.