On Tuesday, Florida state Rep. Alex Andrade (R) introduced a bill titled Public Postsecondary Educational Institutions, which would not only effectively eliminate tenure for professors, but would also prohibit any spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and would ban majoring in gender studies. Yes, you read that right. It would ban a major. Hundreds of students at state universities staged walkouts on Thursday in protest.
The Tampa Bay Times said the bill mirrors much of a legislative proposal Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) put out in January. The bill comes after DeSantis banned a high school Advanced Placement course on African American studies. DeSantis is widely viewed as a Republican candidate for president in 2024 but has yet to announce. (Even though he’s definitely running.)
Because these proposed changes could only apply to publicly funded schools, that means people with enough money, willingness to take on debt, and/or time navigate archaic financial aid programs in order to attend private colleges could still take these courses and majors.
In a January press release, the governor’s office said the proposal would “further elevate civil discourse and intellectual freedom in higher education, further pushing back against the tactics of liberal elites who suppress free thought in the name of identity politics and indoctrination.” Colleges have to ban entire majors to have free thought, you see.
Jeremy C. Young, the senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America said on Twitter that the bill “would enact the most draconian and censorious restrictions on higher education in the history of this country.”
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University of Michigan law professor Julian Davis Mortenson annotated the bill text, highlighting the section requiring the removal of majors or minors in Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, or Gender Studies.
Protesting students accused the allegedly freedom-loving governor of censorship. “We want to take these classes and for the state to come in and say, ‘Well, we might not want to allow you to have that’…At what point are college students going to be considered adults by the state of Florida?” Jonathon Chavez, president of College Democrats at the University of South Florida, told ABC News.
DeSantis also recently asked public colleges to tell his administration how many students sought gender-affirming care on campus, a move that state House Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell believes is a preview of additional restrictions on state funding. “We can see cuts in funding for universities to treat students with this condition, and I think an all-out elimination of services is certainly on the table,” Driskell told the Associated Press.
Some people view DeSantis as Trump without the “baggage” of several criminal investigations, but as these actions suggest, a DeSantis presidency would be far more dangerous than a Trump one, because he’s already using Florida as a testing ground.