TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Friday, Jan. 13 is an important deadline, set by Gov. Ron DeSantis, for all of Florida’s public colleges and universities.
The governor wants details on all programs and activities related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory.
Critics say students will suffer if cuts are made for political purposes. DeSantis says he wants the focus to be on academics, not so-called ‘woke ideology.’
DeSantis has pushed laws to change professor tenure, placed allies in top college posts, and mandated a survey asking students about political expression.
The governor’s latest move comes as he kicks off his second term.
“We will never surrender to the woke mob, Florida is where woke goes to die,” DeSantis said during his second inaugural address in Tallahassee.
He made it clear that for him, higher education reforms remain a priority.
Days before his swearing-in on Dec. 28, a memo was sent from the governor’s office to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and State University Chancellor Ray Rodrigues. The governor wanted details on campus programs related to “diversity, equity, and inclusion – and critical race theory.”
Friday marks the deadline for schools to fill out the excel sheet, obtained by 8 On Your Side.
They are required to list DEI/CRT programs, describe them, and provide information on faculty, funding, and taxpayer dollars.
“It’s a clear attack on free speech in higher education,” said Andrew Gothard.
Gothard is president of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF), the union that represents faculty members at Florida’s public colleges and universities.
He said it’s unclear what the governor plans to do with this information. He called the request vague, claiming it doesn’t distinguish between a CRT course or program that helps veterans get jobs.
“All of these fall under the broad umbrella of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Gothard said, “and then, they’re going to cut that funding for political reasons.”
“The group that is going to suffer the most from that cut in funding is going to be Florida students and Florida’s families,” he added.
8 On Your Side took questions about the governor’s request to one of the men in charge of gathering the data, Commissioner Diaz.
the commissioner said it’s common to look at how taxpayer money is being spent.
“I want to be clear, this is a fact-finding mission, there’s no action being taken on this,” he said. “Clearly, we should know if taxpayer dollars are being used to teach our students in Florida to hate our country or to hate each other.”
8 On Your Side asked if the state planned to make budget cuts after the fact-finding mission.
“Across our state budget, there are programs all over the board from education to healthcare, it is good practice to have the legislature have transparency on where it’s being spent because if you look at our state budget, it’s a big, big document, a lot of things are put in there and even as the governor goes through and approves or denies issues, the more transparency you have the better,” Commissioner Diaz said.
Investigator Mahsa Saeidi will continue to follow the response to the governor’s request.
If you have a tip for Mahsa, email her at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.