SARASOTA, FLORIDA — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law three bills that will significantly change Florida’s university and college systems and further Florida’s goal of becoming the number one state for workforce education by 2030.
The governor was joined by state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues and New College trustee Christopher Rufo at New College of Florida in Sarasota. New College President Richard Corcoran also spoke about the governor’s leadership in fighting woke ideology in public institutions.
But a group of protesters outside the building grew louder as DeSantis spoke of the state’s increased efforts to bring more regulation to higher education. The chants from activists prompted him to joke that he was disappointed with the size of the protest and was “hoping for more.”
“It’s our view that, when the taxpayers are funding these institutions, that we as Floridians and we as taxpayers have every right to insist that they are following a mission that is consistent with the best interest of our people in our state,” DeSantis said.
“You don’t just get to take taxpayer dollars and do whatever the heck you want to do and think that that’s somehow OK,” the governor added.
The first bill (SB 266) dismantles Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) departments which claim 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.”
DeSantis called diversity, equity and inclusion a relatively new concept that took off “post-BLM rioting” in 2020 and “a veneer to impose an ideological agenda.” A better way to describe it is “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” the governor said.
“Florida’s getting out of that game,” DeSantis added. “If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley. We want to be focused on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.”
Additionally, the bill expands the hiring and firing authority of university boards and presidents, prohibits spending related to DEI programs and allows universities to review the performance of tenured faculty every five years. Professors who fail to meet performance requirements are now subject to dismissal in the state-funded college system.
ENDING POLITICAL FILTERS
DeSantis signed another bill (HB 931) to prohibit “woke litmus tests” or diversity statements, which many universities have required in recent years. The legislation also establishes an office of public policy events within each state university to organize campus events with various viewpoints.
“We’re going to treat people as individuals and not as groups,” DeSantis said as he told supporters that he’d like to see the state’s higher education system move more toward “employable majors” and away from “niche subjects” that make it difficult for students to get jobs after graduation.
EXPANDING WORKFORCE EDUCATION
The third bill (SB 240) supports Florida’s goal of achieving the number one spot for workforce education. The bill expands apprenticeship programs and requires districts to offer work-based learning to high school students. DeSantis said he wants to ensure that not all students feel pressured to go down the university path and end up in debt for a degree in “zombie studies.”
DeSantis is allocating $100 million in the state budget to recruit and retain faculty across the state system. In addition, $30 million is given to the Hamilton Center, a civics institute at the University of Florida, $8 million to the civics center at Florida State University and $5 million to a new center at Florida International University.