TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A bill proposed for March’s legislative session would specifically target and ban any degree focused on Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, as well as change how universities hire their professors.
In late January, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a series of reforms for higher education. He listed off a number of initiatives, such as banning diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, diversity offices, and outlined efforts he said would “promote academic excellence, the pursuit of truth,” and give students a “foundation to think for themselves.”
DeSantis has repeatedly stated he would fight censorship targeting Floridians from big tech companies and social media platforms, and promoted efforts to ban “indoctrination” and “ideology” in state curriculum. He said Florida education should be “rooted in the values of liberty and the western tradition” and block public institutions from “supporting campus activities or programs that promote” so-called divisive concepts such as CRT or DEI.
The new legislation would build on the Stop WOKE Act from 2022, which prohibits instruction on certain concepts related to race.
The new bill would prohibit specific academic concepts, putting the governor’s calls into legislation.
State Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Escambia) answered that call, introducing House Bill 999, which would change how Florida universities hire faculty. It also includes bans on different degrees.
Andrade’s proposed legislation would remove Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality degrees, as well as include any major or minor that “engenders belief” in those concepts.
Additionally, the bill expands hiring and firing power for university presidents and boards of trustees. In Florida, boards of trustees are appointed by the governor. Then, the board will select and and vote for a president.
If passed, HB 999 would allow the boards to “delegate” hiring power to presidents of the institution, but they would still have to approve hirings.
Further, the bill explicitly bans state colleges or universities from “using diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, Critical Race Theory rhetoric, or other forms of political identity filters as part of the hiring process, including as part of applications for employment, promotion and tenure, conditions of employment, or reviewing qualifications for employment.”
The bill text states the hiring process rule applies to any position at a university, including president. Faculty members’ tenure status will also be open for review by the board of trustees at the request of a board’s chair.
The bill builds on previous legislation that created a five-year review process for tenured faculty in Florida, which passed last year.
Additionally, the bill bans use of university resources to “promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities…that espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric,” whether directly or through grants, contracts, or service agreements.
Discussing tenure and hiring practices in January, DeSantis said the change of hiring practices for Florida universities would also allow the state to prevent “certain worldviews” from being promoted when making academic hiring decisions by faculty committees.
The bill also mandates the creation of a “Florida Institute for Governance and Civics” at Florida State University for the purposes of:
- Providing students with access to an interdisciplinary hub that will develop academically rigorous scholarship and coursework on the origins of the American system of government
- Courses on American government’s foundational documents, “subsequent political traditions and evolutions”
- American system’s “impact on comparative political systems”
- Encourage civic literacy in Florida schools and development of education tools and resources for K-12 and postsecondary students to “foster an understanding of how individual rights, constitutionalism, separation of powers, and federalism function within the American system of government”
- Model civic discourse that recognizes the importance of viewpoint diversity, intellectual rigor, and an evidence-based approach to history
- Plan and host forums to allow students and guests to hear from exceptional individuals who have excelled in a wide range of sectors of American life to highlight the possibilities created by individual achievement and entrepreneurial vision
- Become a national and state resource for polling instruments and assessments that measure civic literacy, recommend changes to improve civic education
- Create a “body of resources” accessible by students, scholars, and government officials to understand innovations in Florida public policy over a “rolling 30-year time period”
Faculty committees at Florida higher education institutions would also be required, starting July 1, 2024, to review and send recommendations to the Articulation Coordinating committee, the commissioner, the education commissioner, and the Chancellor of the State University System regarding “removal, alignment, realignment, or addition of general education core courses” that meet requirements of the new interdisciplinary civics curriculum.
The bill also requires “general education core courses” not “suppress or distort significant historical events” or teach curriculum focused on identity politics, focusing on Critical Race Theory, or any curriculum that “defines American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principals stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
It also requires a focus on Western literary canon, and requires students to be able to communicate and write about the topic, as well as requiring Humanities courses to teach students to think critically in relation to human culture, literature, history, art, music, and philosophy.
Study of Western civilization, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, subsequent amendments, and the Federalist Papers will also be required.
Other stipulations are included for changes and requirements for college and university curriculum focused on social sciences and behavior, natural sciences, and mathematics. If the bill passes the Florida Legislature, it would take effect July 1.