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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida isn't alone in trying to ban campus diversity programs

protestor holds sign with words "Equality Florida" on the back in front of other protestors
Anna Jones
/
WFSU Public Media
Protest leader holding an Equality Florida sign.

Said a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education: "It really goes beyond what we’ve seen I think in almost any other state.”

Florida is among 15 other states where lawmakers have filed bills that would ban efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on college and university campuses.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has launched the DEI Legislation Tracker, which shows the states that have filed bills and whether those measures pass or fail. So far, none of the bills have passed; three have failed.

Reporters at the outlet tracked bills that propose at least one of the following:

  • eliminating DEI offices or staff
  • banning mandatory diversity training
  • prohibiting schools from requiring diversity statements when hiring or promoting employees
  • barring schools from using diversity as a factor in admissions and hiring decisions

Adrienne Lu, a senior reporter at the Chronicle, explained to WFSU News that Florida's HB 999 is "fairly unusual."

"It really goes beyond what we’ve seen I think in almost any other state.”

For instance, legislation filed in the House would ban majors and minors in critical race theory, gender studies and intersectionality, Lu explained. The Senate's version of the bill has removed that provision.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has prioritized banning DEI efforts on campus, boosting his national profile as he gears up for a likely presidential run.

“He’s gained a lot of attention nationwide for his attacks on higher education and saying things like ‘Florida is the place where woke goes to die.’”

The bills seeking to ban DEI initiatives are similar to model legislation put out by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the Goldwater Institute, two conservative think tanks.

“This effort doesn’t come out of nowhere," Lu said. "Over the last couple of years, there have been bills in about half the states to restrict teaching either in K-12 or in colleges on divisive concepts having to do with race, racism and gender. "

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.