SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several higher education bills into law Monday while speaking at New College of Florida in Sarasota.
Among the bills signed was SB 266, which uses broader definitions to limit, but not eliminate, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in colleges and universities in the state.
The law prohibits colleges and universities from spending public dollars on DEI initiatives that promote “dangerous political and social activism,” prevents the teaching of critical race theory, and DEI in general education courses, and bars programs, majors, minors, and curriculum based on these and related theories.
During his speech at New College, DeSantis said his goal with the legislation was to “reorient” universities back to their traditional mission.
“Part of that traditional mission is to treat people as individuals, not to try to divvy them up based on any type of superficial characteristics. We’re going to elevate merit and achievement above identification with certain groups.”
Critics have said the bill is “total censorship,” arguing “there should not be limits to what individuals are able to learn, particularly in higher education.”
But DeSantis called initiatives like DEI a “distraction” from a university’s core mission.
“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for ‘discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,’ and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis said.
“This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida,” he added.
Students at New College were protesting the newly signed bill Monday. This comes after months of speaking out about leadership changes at the school.
“Today Ron DeSantis signed one of the most insulting pieces of legislation in academic history, I would say, in the United States on our very home campus. Well we have been organizing for months to defend, not just New College, but the entire state from these quite frankly disgusting attacks on free expression and education in the state of Florida,” said student Madison Markham.
Now signed, the bill will take effect on July 1.
The governor also signed HB 931, which prohibits colleges and universities from requiring students, faculty, and staff to sign in support of DEI and other “agendas” before admittance or hiring.