Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Monday banning the state’s public colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” DeSantis said during a news conference at New College of Florida in Sarasota. “And that has no place in our public institutions.”
Many institutions across the U.S. have DEI offices aimed at diversifying staff and to promote inclusivity for faculty and students.
The location of the bill signing is notable as DeSantis has targeted New College of Florida to put it in a more conservative direction. Earlier this year, he appointed six new members to the school’s board of trustees, putting conservative allies in control of the board. He accused the school’s leadership of overemphasizing DEI, critical race theory and gender ideology, which he characterized as not “what a liberal arts education should be.”
DeSantis said Monday that he’s viewed DEI initiatives as a discriminatory practice. “This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs.”
The new law also bans what can be taught in the state’s higher education institutions. General education courses can’t “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics,” or critical race theory.
This effort is part of DeSantis’ larger work to crack down on what he calls “woke indoctrination” in schools. In the last two years, state education officials have rejected dozens of mathematics and social studies textbooks for students in K-12 schools.
Texas has been working on a similar bill banning DEI programs in its own state university system.
“When you see elected leaders demonizing educators and weaponizing education, it’s a five-alarm fire for democracy,” Irene Mulvey, president of The American Association of University Professors, told Nature. “It important to understand that when governors attack DEI efforts, they completely mischaracterize them to create a straw-man demon that they now have to do away with.”
The law will go into effect on July 1.