Gov. Ron DeSantis takes aim at university DEI funding in Florida with new higher education initiatives

BRADENTON, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday took aim at diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida’s public universities, saying they are a drain on resources and impose an agenda on people.

Speaking at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, DeSantis started by saying he wants to make sure that everybody that goes through a Florida university has to take “certain core course requirements, that’s really focused on giving them the foundation so that they can think for themselves and the core curriculum must be grounded in actual history, the actual philosophy that has shaped Western civilization,” though he wasn’t specific.

“We are also going to eliminate all DEI and [critical race theory] bureaucracies in the state of Florida, no funding and that will wither on the vine,” DeSantis went on to say. “And I think that that’s very important because it really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter.”

RELATED: Florida blocks high school African American studies class

Earlier this month his administration asked state colleges and universities for information about resources they are putting into activities related to DEI and critical race theory. A UNF political science professor was critical of the move.

MORE: UNF professor criticizes Gov. DeSantis’s push to scrutinize higher education programs

Harvard Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad is one of 200 professors from around the nation, who penned an open letter in defense of AP African American studies, writing in part:

“Contrary to DeSantis’s claims of promoting freedom in education, he is suppressing learning in his state and limiting the freedom of Florida students to choose what they can learn. He is destroying core educational principles.”

Muhammad says if the governors latest proposal to eliminate all state funding for DEI programs in state colleges becomes law, Florida’s educational system could suffer as a whole.

“If the new rules prohibiting DEI and universities, and let’s just assume it may spread to government agencies, is enacted under Gov. DeSantis, we will see a version of flight from the state for people who take these values as fundamental to who they are. And Florida will not be able to compete with some of the best talent that exists in this country because they will see the backlash against DEI as an indication that Florida is not a welcoming place,” he said.

A spokesperson for UNF writes: “UNF is reviewing the announcement made today, but does not have further comments at this time.”

A spokesperson for FSCJ tells News4JAX that a human resource employee handles DEI, saying: “This position serves the college community and creates an organizational culture where all can engage in academic excellence.”

DeSantis has made the fight against critical race theory — which is based on the premise that racism is embedded in American institutions — a linchpin of his education and political agenda. By definition, DEI programs are put in place to promote the fair treatment and full participation of all people, especially in the workplace, including populations who have historically been under-represented or subject to discrimination.

DeSantis said he also wants to give university boards of trustees and the presidents of the universities the power to call a post-tenure review at any time for professors. Currently, tenured faculty can be reviewed once every five years, he said.

Another DeSantis proposal would increase the standards for preeminent state research universities so that they have to do annual research expenditures of at least $50 million on STEM programs, or business partnerships that will directly increase the ability of Florida students to become gainfully employed.

More details can be found in a graphic shared by DeSantis on Twitter.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.