Florida is making a slew of changes to its colleges, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said Tuesday morning.
“We will eliminate all DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and CRT [critical race theory] bureaucracies in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a news conference in Bradenton, Florida. “New College has really embraced that, and I think that’s why the enrollment is down so much, because people want to see true academics, and they want to get rid of some of the political window dressing that accompanies this.”
The governor announced changes to Florida’s higher education system, including adding a core curriculum at Florida universities, reviewing tenured professors, and overhauling faculty and operations at the New College of Florida. He said the Legislature directed $15 million in the 2023-2024 budget to recruiting new faculty for New College.
“It’s not just New College,” DeSantis said. “In our budget, we’re gonna put in $100 million for recruiting highly qualified faculty at all of our universities.”
DeSantis said new general education requirements at Florida universities will be rooted in “values of liberty and the Western tradition,” and will “not promote ideological indoctrination.”
“The core curriculum must be grounded in actual history, the actual philosophy that has shaped Western civilization,” the Florida Republican said. He said taxpayer dollars should fund “meaningful” degrees, not including majors like “zombie studies” at taxpayer extent.
The governor will require colleges and universities to “prioritize graduating students with degrees that lead to high-wage jobs,” and not those that are “designed to further a political agenda” and prohibit “political filters like DEI statements” when making hiring decisions.
Jonathan Butcher, Will Skillman fellow in education at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Daily Signal public money should not be used to fund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices in schools or universities. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)
“DEI programs—so-called DEI professional development for faculty and staff, teaching training resources, DEI statements as a requirement for job applicants, and more—do not make schools more diverse,” Butcher said. “They enforce a singular set of ideas based on the belief that your racial or sexual “identity” is what defines you. To make matters worse, research shows that DEI training programs do not change participants’ attitudes toward others.”
“DEI reinforces prejudice and does not accomplish the aim of making people more accepting of diverse ideas,” Butcher added. “State lawmakers should be defunding these initiatives.”
DeSantis also announced higher standards for Florida professors. “All tenured faculty must be reviewed every five years and can be let go if not up to standards,” DeSantis said.
The governor said boards of trustees and presidents of universities can choose to conduct tenure reviews before five years if a professor is performing poorly.
“Taxpayers of Florida deserve our best efforts across these institutions,” DeSantis said, calling for “accountability.”
DeSantis’ announcement included amending research standards to require “annual research expenditures of $50 million for STEM-related programs, businesses, or industry partners that will employ Floridians.” He said this will help Florida students gain employment after graduation.
“I think you have the dominant view, which is not the right view. The dominant view is the use of higher education under this view is to impose ideological conformity, to try to promote political activism,” DeSantis said. “That’s what a university should be. That’s not what we believe is appropriate in the state of Florida. 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.”
DeSantis announced the appointment of six conservatives to the New College board of trustees on Jan. 6. The board’s first meeting took place Tuesday afternoon.
New College’s Gender Studies program aims to “engage students with the complex ‘focal’ problem of gender” through courses like “How a Woman Becomes a Lake and Other Unheroic Acts: A Craft Seminar in Gender and Genre Bending,” according to its website.
Gender neutral restrooms are located throughout the Sarasota, Florida campus, and New College offers a form for students to change their name and preferred personal pronouns if they have a change of heart about their gender.
The Florida public honors college offers a “Feminist Fridays” discussion group, a “Queery student group,” and a “Pride Living Learning Community” for students exploring their gender identity to room together.
“Students living in this LLC [Living Learning Community] should be excited to live with LGBTQIA+ people as well as learning about and celebrating LGBTQIA+ history and culture,” the website says. “Residents are placed without requirements of gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”
“We reject indoctrination,” said State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, who spoke after DeSantis.
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