TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has the legal right to audit Florida’s public colleges and universities for spending on DEI programs, a federal judge has ruled.
The administration wants schools to conduct surveys and “provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory,” which includes the amount of state funding they receive.
It’s all part of the “Stop WOKE Act,” officially titled the “Individual Freedom Act” and largely a ban on teaching critical race theory in Florida schools and colleges. The 2022 education law was championed by DeSantis and restricts certain race-based conversation and analysis in both business and education.
In November, U.S. Chief District Judge Mark Walker issued an injunction to block portions of the law from being implemented on college and university campuses as part of a lawsuit brought by a University of Florida professor and student.
Plaintiffs in a separate challenge to the law asked Walker to force the state to comply with the order and cancel the surveys. They filed a motion to block the audit of college programs and initiatives on Jan. 11. The next day, the state filed its opposition to blocking the surveys. The same day, Walker denied the plaintiff’s request.
In his ruling, Walker wrote that he “would not hesitate to compel compliance” with the order he had already put in place, but said the DEI surveys didn’t violate the injunction.
The state argued that although the administration seeks to withhold funding from universities that violate the law, simply seeking information to determine whether violations occurred is not considered to be enforcement.