Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill eliminating DEI programs at colleges, universities

SB 266, SB 240, HB 931 signed into law

SARASOTA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that blocks public colleges from using federal or state funding on diversity programs, addressing a concern of conservatives ahead of the Republican governor’s expected presidential candidacy.

DeSantis signed SB 266, SB 240 and HB 931 during a news conference at New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college in Sarasota. In a signal of DeSantis’ reach on education, he chose to sign the bill at New College of Florida, a small, traditionally-progressive school that became nationally known this year after the governor appointed a group of conservatives to its board of trustees. Among the DeSantis appointees’ first moves was to eliminate the New College’s diversity, equity and inclusion office.

The push to eliminate DEI programs in higher education has been a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis during the legislative session. DeSantis’ administration this year also directed colleges and universities to provide lists of DEI initiatives on each campus and costs associated with them.

Diversity, equity and inclusion offices in higher education often spearhead services tailored to students of various races, genders, sexual orientations, cultures and abilities. Some college administrators also consider so-called DEI factors when admitting students, providing scholarships or deciding which faculty to hire and promote.

SB 266 carries out a proposal by the governor to end spending on DEI initiatives.

“In reality, what this concept of DEI has been is intended to impose orthodoxy on the university and not even necessarily in the classroom, but through the administrative apparatus of the university itself and that manifests itself in a number of different ways. But this is basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda and that is wrong,” the governor said.

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The measure also bars curriculums that teach “identity politics” or “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.” The provision is aimed at curtailing education about critical race theory, a way of thinking about U.S. history through the lens of racism.

The bill also gives university presidents ultimate hiring authority at their schools.

DeSantis also signed SB 240 into law, which expands workforce education program access in schools.

“We are, in this bill requiring, each middle and high school school district to ensure that every high school student has access to at least one work-based learning opportunity. We’re also requiring school districts to ensure that each high school post a career fair during the school year and it allows middle school students who want to continue their CTE education in high school to attend a high school that offers the program regardless of zip code,” the governor said.

He also signed HB 931, which “prohibits public institutions of higher education from requiring completion of political loyalty test or for persons to meet certain qualifications,” according to the bill.

While the news conference was going on, protesters were heard outside the building.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.