DeSantis Proposes Defunding DEI Programs at Florida Universities

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Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a speech at 2021 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans on Tuesday to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida’s colleges and universities.

DeSantis, a potential candidate for the 2024 presidential election, said he will also change tenure and hiring policies, allowing institutions to conduct post-tenure reviews on faculty at any time and giving university presidents and board of trustees more authority in hiring decisions.

The proposals are part of DeSantis’ new legislative package for reforming higher education in the state to push back against “identity politics and indoctrination,” according to a press release. The package is expected to be taken up by state lawmakers when the legislative session begins in March.

“We are also going to eliminate all DEI and [critical race theory] bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine,” DeSantis said during a press conference. “And I think that that’s very important because it really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter.”

The announcement is the latest in DeSantis’ efforts to reshape education in the state. On Jan. 12, his administration introduced a statewide ban on a new Advanced Placement course about African American studies. He also recently appointed several conservative educational activists to the board of trustees at the New College of Florida, a small liberal arts institution known for its progressive ideals.

In December, DeSantis’ administration ordered leaders at Florida’s college and university systems to report how much schools spend on DEI expenditures. In total, the state’s 12 public universities spent a combined $34.5 million on DEI programs. None of the institutions spent more than 1 percent of their budgets on such activities, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

In addition, DeSantis recently asked the 12 universities to detail how much they have spent on providing gender-affirming care since 2018, says The Tampa Bay Times.

Critics, including Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida union, have already begun speaking out in response to DeSantis’ newly unveiled higher education plan.

“The words themselves, ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion,’ show that these programs are not just about race; they are about ensuring that everyone has fair and equal access to Florida’s higher education classrooms,” Gothard told The News Service of Florida.