DeSantis signs bill defunding diversity, equity, inclusion programs in Florida

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 2:15 PM EDT
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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Monday that will eliminate state or federal spending on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at publicly-funded colleges in Florida.

The governor signed SB 266 at the New College of Florida in Sarasota, a school whose trustees are now dominated by conservatives appointed by DeSantis.

DeSantis first announced in January his push to block state colleges from teaching DEI programs while heavily criticizing critical race theory.

"In reality, what this concept of DEI has been is an attempt to impose orthodoxy on the university," DeSantis said. "This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda, and that is wrong."

At the beginning of the year, the governor asked Florida’s public colleges and universities to report how much money they are spending on DEI. He said in March they self-reported at least $34 million.

The governor said Monday that DEI is better viewed as standing for "discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination," which he stated has no place in public institutions.

"Florida's getting out of that game," DeSantis said. "If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley, go to some of these other places. That's fine."

He said the more time that is spent on DEI causes less emphasis on the recruitment of quality teachers and is a "distraction" to the core curriculum.

"With our tax dollars, we want to focus on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be," DeSantis said. "We don't want to be diverted into a lot of these niche subjects that are heavily politicized."

DeSantis also said many of these majors don't result in students finding jobs once they graduate.

"It's not a good academic choice in terms of being employable," DeSantis said.

The governor and other conservatives have long argued that critical race theory, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs are racially divisive and discriminatory — and are often cited in criticism of what they often call "woke" ideology in education.

The bill has been highly controversial, spurring protests at Florida Atlantic University in March with students rallying under the slogan “Free Minds Equals Free Country.”

Monday's bill signing ceremony was met by more protests with DeSantis saying he was "a little disappointed" because he was "hoping for more."

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