DEI Language Removed From Florida’s Controversial Higher Education Bill

Language related to “diversity, equity and inclusion” was removed following concerns about the impact the law might have on accreditation of certain courses and programs.
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  • The latest amendment to Florida's controversial higher education bill has removed all references to "diversity, equity and inclusion."
  • Previously, the bill aimed to end the funding, support, and promotion of DEI programs at public institutions.
  • The bill was deemed controversial since its February introduction due to the unprecedented control it would give the state over public education.
  • Critics still say that the new language of the bill leaves too much room for varying interpretations.

In January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called on lawmakers to make significant changes to the state's higher education system. His intent was to cease a growing number of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at public colleges.

Just one month later, House Bill 999 and its companion Senate Bill 266 were filed, which would have prohibited public institutions from funding the promotion, support, or maintenance of DEI programs.

Now, the state's lawmakers have removed all language related to "diversity, equity and inclusion" in SB 266 after concerns that the bill would negatively impact accreditation for some programs and courses.

Instead, the latest rewrite of the bill would ban curricula based on "theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities."

Additional amendments to the bill removed all language that would have banned certain majors and minors at public schools and added the ability of the board of trustees to delegate hiring decisions to other faculty members.

Previously, changes made to HB 999 in March would have banned institutions from offering programs based on "Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Radical Feminist Theory, Radical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Social Justice, or Intersectionality."

The bill's first introduction in February drew significant criticism across the state, with hundreds of students, faculty, and staff staging protests and walkouts.

Though the latest amendments may signal a positive for students and faculty who previously worried about the fate of their programs, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson still believes that to pass the bill would be going a step backward.

"This would ignore 100 years of history," she said to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education during a two-hour hearing. "We are confusing theory and fact."

Further, other critics of the bill still worry that the language is now even broader and leaves too much room of varying interpretations.