‘DeSantis Political Operation’: National Orgs Condemn Florida GOP’s Higher Ed Reform Bill

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  • The American Association of University Professors, the American Teacher Federation and the National Coalition Against Censorship released a statement Monday against a newly introduced Florida bill to reform higher education.
  • The bill would ban gender studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT), intersectionality and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in university majors or minors.
  • “This bill substitutes the ideological beliefs of those in power for the freedom that is necessary for colleges and universities to serve the common good and function as intellectual centers where young people succeed and where the ideas that drive our country’s economy and democracy are ignited,” the statement reads.

Three national organizations released a joint statement Monday condemning a newly introduced bill in the Florida legislature that would remove Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) from higher education institutions.

House Bill (HB) 999, which was introduced in the statehouse on Feb. 21, would ban educational programs in gender studies, CRT, intersectionality or DEI at higher education institutions, according to its text. American Association of University Professors President Irene Mulvey, American Teacher Federation (ATF) President Randi Weingarten and National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) President Chris Finan issued a statement in response alleging that bill will “destroy higher education as we know it.” (RELATED: Florida Universities ‘Misreported’ Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Spending, DeSantis Admin Says)

“With the introduction of HB 999, the Florida legislature — at Governor DeSantis’s urging — has doubled down on its attacks on academic freedom with a bill that would effectively silence faculty and students across the ideological spectrum and purge whole fields of study from public universities,” the statement reads. “This bill substitutes the ideological beliefs of those in power for the freedom that is necessary for colleges and universities to serve the common good and function as intellectual centers where young people succeed and where the ideas that drive our country’s economy and democracy are ignited.”

Republican state Rep. Alex Andrade, the bill’s sponsor, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the statement used “politically driven rhetoric camouflaged as some type of high-minded ordeal about the market place of ideas” and does not “accurately portra[y] the purpose or effect of the bill.”

“I’ve been on the front lines of a lot of political rhetoric, thought-policing masked as high-minded thought for the past five years in the Florida legislature,” Andrade told the DCNF. “This is good policy for our state university system to incorporate.”

The bill would give the state Board of Governors, who oversees the state universities and is appointed by the state governor, the authority to “periodically review” and revise universities’ missions and remove any major or minor in “[CRT], Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative major or minor” that involves DEI, the text reads. Universities also would be prohibited from mandating CRT courses or requiring potential employees to submit DEI or CRT statements as a hiring practice.

“The bill would place control of core curricula and institutional mission statements entirely in the hands of political appointees,” the statement continues. “It would limit or ban students’ ability to pursue certain majors or areas of study. Simply put, it would make Florida’s colleges and universities into an arm of the DeSantis political operation.”

The legislature will convene for its regular session in March, Reuters reported.

DeSantis pledged in January to defund DEI programming at public universities during a press conference on higher education. The administration demanded state colleges and universities to submit a report detailing how much taxpayer money was spent on DEI programs which totaled more than $15 million at the university level.

“It is encouraging to see the legislature taking up this important topic and joining the conversation that the governor began with his legislative proposals for higher education reform in Florida. The governor is committed to ensuring that the DEI and CRT bureaucracies are cut off and wither on the vine,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary, told the DCNF. “We look forward to it reaching the governor’s desk in final form.”

South Carolina and Oklahoma lawmakers also requested their universities submit reports detailing how taxpayer money funds DEI programs. Utah and West Virginia lawmakers filed legislation that would prohibit DEI statements from being considered for university hiring, and Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Chief of Staff Gardner Pate sent a letter to state universities reminding them that using DEI to hire is illegal.

“Historically, autocratic regimes have set their sights on cultural centers, the arts, and colleges and universities, because they see these places as threats to their power and control,” the statement read. “The events unfolding in Florida are state-sponsored efforts to stifle ideas, silence debate, and limit the autonomy of educational institutions whose faculty, staff, students, or administrators may disagree with the party in power.”

The AAUP, ATF and NCAC did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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