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'Discrimination, Exclusion and Indoctrination': DeSantis Bans DEI Initiatives at Public Universities in Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at public universities in his state on Monday, May 15.

In remarks at New College of Florida in Sarasota, DeSantis said his government had “embraced the idea that we want our higher education system to reflect the best interest of the state of Florida.”

He said that DEI was “better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,” and that initiatives had distracted from the “core mission” of universities.

The legislation also impacted the availability of some majors that DeSantis described as “DEI-infused”.

“If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkely,” the governor said. “If that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but for us, with our tax dollars, we want to focus on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.” Credit: Ron DeSantis via Storyful

Video transcript

RON DESANTIS: We really embraced the idea that we want our higher education system to reflect the best interests of the state of Florida. It's our view that when the taxpayers are funding these institutions that we as Floridians and we as taxpayers have every right to insist that they are following a mission that is consistent with the best interests of our people and our state. You don't just get to take taxpayer dollars and do whatever the heck you want to do and think that that's somehow OK.

So the first bill that I'll be signing is SB 266, and what this does is reorient our universities back to their traditional mission. And 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.

And in order to do that, we had to look at this new concept-- relatively new concept called diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I didn't know much-- I mean, this is something relatively recent. I mean, Chris Ruffo can talk about when this really started to percolate. I think it had probably been there a few years ago, but then kind of the post BLM rioting and the George Floyd summer of 2020, I think you saw it really take off.

And on its face, I mean, I see-- when I see diversity, I think, like, you know, different viewpoints, having robust academic discussion in the university. Isn't that what they're for? In reality, what this concept of DEI has been is to attempt to impose orthodoxy on the university, and not even necessarily in the classroom but through the administrative apparatus of the university itself. And that manifests itself in a number of different ways, but this has basically been used has a veneer to impose an ideological agenda. And that is wrong.

And, in fact, 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.

[APPLAUSE]

And so this bill says the whole experiment with the DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs. We are going to treat people as individuals. We're not going to treat people as members of groups.

And it's also wrong how this has been implemented. It has been discriminatory. But it's also the fact that the more emphasis you place on something like a DEI, the less time emphasis you do because of opportunity costs on recruiting great teachers, on promoting things like STEM courses or other great courses that the students could really learn about from taking. So I think it's been a distraction from the core mission of the university, and I think that this is a needed corrective.

We're also making a determination in this bill to say, OK, you have tax dollars. Even though we put a lot of funding into New College in this current year-- and we'll talk a little bit about that. But, I mean, you know, we've really shown a commitment to higher education with funding, and that's important. But at the end of the day, you can't be all things to all people. You've got to make decisions about what do you want to do? You know, do you want a medical school somewhere? Do you want something else?

And so what this bill is saying is, you know, some of these niche subjects like critical race theory, other types of DEI-infused courses and majors, Florida's getting out of that game. If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley. Go to some of these other places. That's fine.

[APPLAUSE]

It's fine, and there's nothing-- if that's what you want to do, there's nothing wrong with that, per se. But for us with our tax dollars, we want to focus on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be.

All right, well, I think that those were great thoughts from all the speakers. And so we have a chance to make it official, so we'll get it done. Anyone that wants to come up, you guys come up and [INAUDIBLE]. All right.

Everybody ready? Still getting people up? All right. All right. So the first one, SB 266. Very important. 14 or 15?

[LAUGHTER]

[INAUDIBLE]

And we've got 931. OK, who wants the one from 931? [INAUDIBLE]? You get one? Anybody else?

[LAUGHTER]

All right, and next we're going to the peanut gallery, so be ready.

[LAUGHTER]

This is SB 240. [INAUDIBLE] There's one for you. OK.

[APPLAUSE]

Lot of great work right here. You guys should be proud of the legislature for turning [INAUDIBLE].

[APPLAUSE]