Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pledged to defund all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at public universities during a Tuesday press conference in Bradenton, Florida.
DeSantis outlined several higher education reforms for state public universities, including defunding DEI programs, which he referred to as “ideological” and “political filters,” readdressing required courses to teach western civilization, and restructuring tenure review.
Tuesday’s announcement expanded on the administration’s recent work to prevent taxpayer dollars from funding so-called woke initiatives on college campuses.
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“People want to see true academics, and they want to get rid of some of the political window-dressing that seems to accompany all this, so that’s no longer going to be in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during the press conference.
The first set of reforms DeSantis announced steers higher education away from “indoctrination” by prohibiting universities from “using political filters like DEI statements in hiring practices” and “supporting campus activities or programs that promote divisive concepts like DEI or CRT,” according to an info sheet distributed at the press conference.
Public universities would also be required to provide a “strong educational foundation” in general courses to not “promote ideological indoctrination” and prioritize degrees that will “lead to high-wage jobs.”
“We don’t want students to go through at taxpayer expense and graduate with a degree in zombie studies,” he said.
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DeSantis’ agenda seeks to increase the number of quality professors in the Sunshine State by reshaping the tenure process, which currently requires a review five years after tenure is awarded, to give the Board of Trustees and university presidents the power to conduct a review at any time, according to the paper.
DeSantis also said he wants to give university presidents more authority in the hiring process.
“The most significant, deadweight cost at universities is typically unproductive, tenure faculty,” he said during the press conference, “and so why would we want to saddle you as taxpayers with that cost if we don’t have to do that.”
DeSantis’ 2023-2024 budget recommendations allocates $15 million for faculty and student recruitment at the New College of Florida (NCF), at which DeSantis recently appointed six conservative trustees, in addition to a recurring $10 million. He recommended $100 million for faculty recruitment and retention for “high-quality faculty” at state institutions.
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State University System of Florida chancellor Ray Rodrigues, Manhattan Institute senior fellow and NCF trustee Christopher Rufo, and University of Florida student Emily Sturge also spoke at the conference.
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