Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to completely defund diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT) initiatives in Florida’s public universities on Tuesday during a press conference held at the New College of Florida.
The news comes after the DeSantis administration requested detailed cost reports pertaining to DEI-related expenses from all 12 of Florida’s public universities in December. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez announced on Jan. 24 that an attempt would be made to curb DEI and CRT efforts, but the specific plan wasn’t discussed until now.
DeSantis said the reasoning for this decision was to direct colleges away from encouraging political activism and shift focus back to academics.
“The dominant view is the use of higher education under this view is to impose ideological conformity to try to provoke political activism. That’s not what we believe is appropriate in the state of Florida,” he said. “Instead, we need our higher education system to focus on promoting academic excellence, the pursuit of truth and to give students the foundation so they can think for themselves.
“The former approach is dominant throughout the country, particularly with respect to academia. You see it manifested in a lot of different ways, but more recently, you see it manifested in things like DEI bureaucracies, and this is basically a component of the administration within universities that are imposing a political agenda. These bureaucracies are hostile to academic freedom and really they constitute a drain on resources and end up contributing to higher costs.”
Another component of DeSantis’ plan is to keep a stricter eye on tenured faculty by requiring them to undergo review every five years, or sooner if necessary. This is to ensure faculty comply with new “anti-woke” legislation being passed, according to DeSantis.
“Now all tenured faculty at our state universities must undergo review every five years and can be let go if they are not performing to expectations. The Board of Trustees (BOT) has to determine whether they stay or go, but you may need to review more aggressively than just five,” he said.
“So we’re gonna give the BOT and the presidents of the universities the power to call a post tenure review at any time. So maybe you’re in year three, but there’s a need to do it. I’ve talked with folks around the country…and the most significant deadweight cost at universities is typically unproductive tenure faculty. And so why would we want to saddle you as taxpayers with that cost if we don’t have to do that?”
USF has spent a total of $8.7 million towards DEI efforts, the highest of any public university in Florida.
DeSantis said these new initiatives will increase enrollment at universities because of their broader appeal.
“I think the more we’re centering higher education on integrity of academic excellence, pursuit of truth, teaching kids to think for themselves and not trying to impose an orthodoxy, you are going to see people flooding into these institutions because there’s a desire for it,” he said.
“You’re gonna see a lot of interest in that when colleges and higher education embrace a more classical mission. People do respond to that.”