DeSantis Signs Bill Defunding DEI Programs at Florida’s Public Colleges

The controversial higher education bill drew significant criticism and concerns over the last few months due to the unprecedented control it gives the state over local institutions.
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Updated on May 16, 2023
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  • After months of criticism and protests, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning public colleges from promoting or supporting DEI programs.
  • Under the new law, state institutions cannot offer general education courses that teach concepts like systemic racism or privilege.
  • Monday's signing was met with more protests and outrage outside the press conference.

Florida's controversial higher education bill defunding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at state colleges was officially signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday.

Under Senate Bill 266, public institutions in Florida are prohibited from using federal or state funds on DEI programming, offices, and other efforts.

The new law will additionally ban state colleges and universities from offering any general education course that "teaches identity politics, or is 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."

The signing of this bill comes after months of discussion from DeSantis about how "woke ideology" and DEI initiatives are dangerous to higher education systems and communities.

In a press conference at New College of Florida in Sarasota, where he signed the bill, the governor reiterated his stance on ending all DEI efforts in the state.

"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," he said. "And that has no place in our public institutions. This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida."

Opponents of the new law have expressed concern for months that the piece of legislation will negatively impact accreditation and students' right to academic freedom.

In March, students at institutions across the state of Florida staged walkouts in protest.

Concerns about the language of the bill peaked in April, leading to an amendment removing all language referencing DEI.

However, the amendment did not get passed and wording referencing DEI programming and initiatives was added back into the bill before it passed in the state Senate and was later sent to the governor's desk.

For more updates on anti-DEI bills across the country, visit our DEI legislation tracker.