Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio led the introduction of a bill Thursday that would limit how accrediting agencies weigh race during a higher education institution’s accreditation process.
Under the “Fairness in Higher Education Accrediting Act,” obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation, Institution of Higher Education (IHE) accrediting agencies would be prohibited from considering a university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies, or lack thereof, as criteria for its accreditation. Rubio introduced the legislation Thursday alongside two co-sponsors, Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott. (RELATED: Colleges ‘Scrambling’ For New Ways To Discriminate With Race-Based Admissions Action Expected To End)
“Wokeness should not be mandatory,” Rubio told the DCNF. “I am proud to introduce the Fairness in Higher Education Accreditation Act, which would protect free speech on college campuses and seeks to prevent a politicized Department of Education from further forcing diversity, equity and inclusion policies into higher education.”
The bill would bar accrediting agencies from examining an university’s use of affirmative action in their admissions process or considering the racial composition of the school’s accepted applicants, students and faculty as criteria for accreditation. Under the legislation, IHE accrediting agencies would be required to weigh how the university ensures the “right of free inquiry [on campus].”
“We need to make sure that no school is judged based on whether a DEI agenda is used,” Scott told the DCNF. “What we care about in Florida is academic success so students can get great jobs after graduation. That’s why our state has been ranked #1 for higher education by U.S. News & World Report for six years running. I am proud to sponsor the Fairness in Higher Education Accreditation Act to bring needed accountability to our colleges and universities.”
The legislation has been introduced ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of affirmative action within Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) admissions processes. During two Supreme Court oral arguments, Students for Fair Admissions, a non-profit that fights race-based policies, argued that UNC allegedly uses race as a determining factor during every step of its admissions process, while Harvard University allegedly puts a specific limit on the number of minority students it accepts into the university.
Students for Fair Admissions has asked the court to overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, a landmark case which stated that affirmative action admissions policies that favor certain races are not a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
“This crucial legislation serves as a beacon of accountability, ensuring we don’t subject universities to undue pressure to adopt divisive DEI policies,” Lee told the DCNF about the recently introduced legislation. “It safeguards against manipulating the accreditation process to advance ideological agendas. By requiring accreditors to examine a school’s compliance with the First Amendment, we reinforce the bedrock values of our republic. This legislation will promote excellence in education and protect the free exchange of ideas on university campuses.”
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