Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began his second term in office this week. During his inauguration speech, he took aim again at what he called “trendy ideology” on college campuses. The Florida politician has requested that state colleges and universities give over information about the funding they are allocating to initiatives centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as critical race theory.
DeSantis has made a focus of his governance a campaign against critical race theory, which is a legal theory founded on the idea that racism is ingrained in American institutions. Despite the theory being one that is only taught to law students and those studying at the university level, DeSantis has railed against 'indoctrination' in schools.
Reading from prepared remarks, the onetime Trump loyalist said, “We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology.”
The director of DeSantis’ Office of Policy and Budget, Chris Spencer, sent a memo Dec. 28 to Florida’s Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., and state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, who oversees the college and university systems. Diaz and Rodrigues are required to collect data and respond to the governor’s demand by Friday, Jan. 13.
According to the News Service of Florida, Spencer said in the memo requesting the information, “As the Executive Office of the Governor prepares policy and budget proposals ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, it is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions.” He further wrote that colleges and universities are required to “provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.”
The schools are also required to list all “costs associated with the administration of each program or activity,” including a description of the activities, paid positions and how much of the money comes from Florida coffers.
In a statement to the News Service of Florida, United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard said Wednesday the union members are “deeply concerned” about the Dec. 28 memo, explaining “Attempts such as these by the governor to chill speech and to intimidate those he disagrees with into remaining silent, altering their curriculum, and silencing their students are an affront to democracy and the American way of life.”
Gothard, an English professor at Florida Atlantic University further warned, “Let those who supported Governor DeSantis in the recent election heed this warning: A man who will silence those whom he disagrees — in the classroom and beyond — will one day find a reason to silence you as well.”