- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed to defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in higher education institutions, claiming they have become politicized and a platform for pushing political agendas.
- DeSantis has proposed giving university presidents and trustees the power to review faculty tenures and authority in faculty hiring decisions.
- The governor has also proposed allocating $15 million for faculty and student recruitment at New College of Florida, with recurring annual funding, and requiring research expenditures in STEM fields from preeminent state research universities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined a series of higher education proposals on Tuesday including measures to defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs.
In recent months, DeSantis has argued that DEI programs have become politicized and that their funds could be better utilized for more practical initiatives that directly benefit students and the state.
He also claims that DEI initiatives have become a platform for pushing a political agenda and that redirecting funds to more practical initiatives would better serve the needs of Florida’s higher education system and its students.
“You look around the country, and Florida isn’t immune to this, there’s a debate going on about what the purpose of higher education is, particularly publicly-funded higher education,” said DeSantis. “I think you have the dominant view, which is not the right view, is to impose ideological conformity, to try and promote political activism. That’s not what we believe in the state of Florida.”
Last month, the Office of the Governor made public a memo that requires all State University System members to report expenditures and resources utilized for campus activities related to DEI, and Critical Race Theory.
The notice outlined a documentation process for universities to provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs, and campus activities that might fall under the categorization of diversity or inclusivity.
Based on published data, early numbers from the initial audits reflect that with approximately $3.4 million coming from the state, the University of Florida reported spending $5.3 million on diversity-related initiatives and costs.
The governor brought forth another proposal that would grant university presidents and the Board of Trustees the power to call for a faculty tenure review at any time.
Last year the state legislature signed a mandate into law requiring performance reviews every five years for tenured faculty at a state university.
“The most significant deadweight cost at universities is typically unproductive tenured faculty,” said DeSantis in defense of the proposal.
Another aspect of the reform would also give university presidents more authority in all faculty hiring decisions, giving primary discretion of final decisions to the president rather than faculty committees.
Further, DeSantis recommended a $15 million allocation in the 2023-24 state budget for faculty and student recruitment at New College of Florida, along with recurring $10 million annual funding for future recruiting efforts.
DeSantis captured statewide headlines earlier this month after he appointed Matthew Spalding, Christopher Rufo, Dr. Charles R. Kesler, Dr. Mark Bauerlein, Debra Jenks, and Eddie Speir to New College’s Board of Trustees.
The appointments drew immediate shock responses, given the New College of Florida’s liberal leanings.
All six individuals hold conservative backgrounds and hold an overarching goal to restructure the campus curriculum, business, and financial models.
Speir published a Substack post on Sunday night outlining his intentions for Tuesday’s trustee meeting. Among Speir’s objectives include the demotion of the university’s current president and terminating all contracts for faculty, staff, and administration.
“Unfortunately, like so many colleges and universities in America, this institution has been completely captured by a political ideology that puts trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning,” DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement to The Capitolist. “In particular, New College of Florida has reached a moment of critical mass, wherein low student enrollment and other financial stresses have emerged from its skewed focus and impractical course offerings.”
DeSantis’ proposals also seek to alter the standards for preeminent state research universities to require annual research expenditures of at least $50 million for subject areas relating to science, technology, engineering, or math programs that will serve to increase the employability levels of Floridian college students.
This is a developing story.