Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed three bills into law on Monday that further restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the state‘s public institutions.
The bills, Senate Bill (SB) 266, House Bill (HB) 931, and SB 240, have caused considerable controversy as they directly target “woke” ideologies in higher education by cutting off funding for initiatives that promote “dangerous” political and social activism.
“This bill prohibits programs, majors, minors, curriculum, and general education core courses that violate Florida law regarding prohibited discrimination or that are 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,” the governor‘s office said in a statement.
The most contentious bill, SB 266, forbids public institutions from spending federal or state dollars on discriminatory DEI initiatives. It also requires university presidents to “renew their ownership of and accountability for hiring, promoting, and when necessary, disciplining faculty.”
HB 931, meanwhile, prohibits public institutions from requiring “political statements and ideological attestations by faculty and students in hiring, promoting, and admissions.”
Speaking on the bills, Governor DeSantis said, “Florida has ranked number one in higher education for seven years in a row, and by signing this legislation we are ensuring that Florida’s institutions encourage diversity of thought, civil discourse, and the pursuit of truth for generations to come.”
The bills have been met with widespread backlash from those who believe that they are an attack on free speech and academic freedom. Critics of the legislation argue that it unfairly targets progressive ideologies and will stifle open discussion and debate on college campuses.
“These bills are an attack on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, which are vital to creating an educated and informed society,” said John Smith, a professor at Florida State University. “By cutting off funding for these initiatives, the governor is sending a message that certain ideas and opinions are not welcome in our state.”
The bills, which recently passed the Florida State Legislature, have been lauded by conservatives who view them as a necessary step to protect free speech and academic freedom.
“These bills are a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting free speech on college campuses in Florida,” said Florida State Senator Mike Miller, a Republican. “We must ensure that our students and faculty are not subjected to ideological requirements or political loyalty tests.”
The bills are also intended to increase access to career and technical education (CTE) programs, as well as expand workforce education initiatives.
“By signing this legislation, we are empowering students, parents, and educators to focus on creating opportunities for our younger generations,” Governor DeSantis said.
The governor‘s office also noted that the bills will not affect “existing student diversity initiatives or any existing programs that are not based on race, ethnicity, or gender.”