Florida College Students Plan Statewide Walk-Out Over DeSantis’ Anti-Woke Policies

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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  • Florida college students are planning to walk out of classes on Feb. 23 to protest Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent orders regarding higher education.
  • Ben Braver, the student organizer, told the Daily Caller News Foundation he began organizing after the DeSantis administration requested data on the number of transgender patients universities treated.
  • “We are the students who need to take a stand because our rights that those generations won are actively being taken away from us,” Braver told the DCNF.

Florida college students intend to walk out of classes on Feb. 23 to protest Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis administration’s recent crackdown on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) on college campuses, according to a newly created Instagram account.

The Florida College Democrats and Dream Defenders organized the “Stand for Freedom” walk-out to oppose DeSantis’ recent promise to defund DEI programs, his appointment of six conservative trustees to New College of Florida and the administration’s request for university reports detailing medical treatment provided to transgender patients, the pledge reads. Participating students are asked to wear black and walk out of classes, jobs, meetings and other commitments to gather at their university student centers from 12 p.m to 1 p.m. (RELATED: NYC Students Occupy Campus Building To Support Striking Faculty)

“There are two things we hope to accomplish. First, to make DeSantis know that the students, the faculty, the staff, the people aren’t going to sit down for this, that we are going to take a stand for freedom,” Ben Braver, a University of South Florida (USF) third-year student who is organizing the event, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The second is I want students to know that there are people like them … around the state who care, who are working at this because the narrative has always been what Ron DeSantis is doing to the students … but we think it’s important for students to take back the narrative to show how they know that diversity has virtue and that it’s better for our education.”

Braver began organizing college students after the DeSantis administration requested data on transgender people universities treated, he explained. He began by creating a petition and holding a rally at USF, but the “universities weren’t able to stand up to DeSantis’ will.”

“The scope had to be broader. This had to be a statewide issue combatting all DeSantis’ attacks on our education system,” he told the DCNF.

The DeSantis administration has taken a hard look at higher education in the Sunshine State and has periodically addressed concerns that colleges and universities are indoctrinating students by adhering to DEI and Critical Race Theory (CRT). The Office of Budget and Policy sent a memo to the State University System of Florida in December 2022 requesting a report outlining how much universities spent on DEI and CRT programs.

“These DEI initiatives he is outlawing teach us how to think critically and compassionately,” the students’ pledge reads. “They teach us how to stand up against hate and bigotry, and to make everyone in our community feel like they belong. We reject these attacks on our values of basic decency, opportunity, and love.”

Democratic Florida Rep. Maxwell Frost and state Reps. Michelle Rayner, Anna Eskamani and Angie Nixon signed the pledge.

The organizers planned several events in addition to the walk-out, according to the Instagram account.

Students planned rallies at the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University and USF on Feb. 21, the post advertises. Students will also protest at New College of Florida (NCF) on Feb. 28.

DeSantis appointed six new members to the NCF Board of Trustees in January, who then voted later that month to terminate NCF President Patricia Okker in favor of former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The trustees’ appointment stoked backlash from students at the college who alleged their “safety is at risk.”

“It’s important to know that we are the people who need to fight for their rights those generations of the past won. We are the students who need to take a stand because our rights that those generations won are actively being taken away from us,” Braver said. “It is important to take a stand because this won’t end with him taking over New College. This won’t end with him asking for trans students’ health data. This won’t end with him banning African American studies. This won’t end with him sending migrants to Maine or making … unable to teach about LGBTQ history or present. He shows every sign of continuing and we need to make sure we put a stop to it.”

Florida College Democrats, Dream Defenders, DeSantis’ office, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, New College of Florida, Frost, Rayner, Eskamani and Nixon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. Florida A&M University declined to comment.

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