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How did FAMU, FSU and TCC respond to DeSantis's request for info on DEI and CRT programs?

illustration: hands of diversity Hands together - set of different races raised up hands. The concept of education, business training, volunteering charity, party.
Наталья Кириллов
Adobe Stock
Hands together - set of different races raised up hands. The concept of education, business training, volunteering charity, party.

The DeSantis administration’s request to public colleges and universities for information on programs that deal with critical race theory (CRT) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is generating a wide range of responses. In Tallahassee, both Florida State and Florida A&M University issued their responses to the requests with pages of courses and activities, many of which don’t mention CRT or DEI directly, or are tied to either accreditation or state mandates.

Key Takeaways:

  • Responses vary wildly, FAMU, FSU and TCC each had different interpretations on what constituted critical race theory, while their overall listings programs and activities related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion appeared more consistent, yet still varied.
  • TCC says it has no activities, programs or courses that include "CRT" or "DEI" in their subject matter. The school is a signatory to a letter from the Florida Council of presidents, which represents all the state's public community and state colleges. The letter says the schools won't spend money on CRT or DEI programs, but also appears to give the schools some wiggle room.
  • FSU listed 57 courses, activities and programs. None have "CRT" in their language, some programs do deal with DEI in colleges like law, engineering and nursing, while most of the courses address issues of race, gender, and class in different disciplines. 86% of the $2.45 million spent on the programs and classes is funded with state money. FSU's overall budget for the current fiscal year is $2.36 billion.
  • FAMU listed 15 programs related to DEI and none related to CRT. Of the programs and activities listed, the ones with the largest expenditures are the university's Environmental Sciences Institute and its Institute for Public Health.

Tallahassee Community College’s Response

Tallahassee Community College responded to the request with a letter stating it has no CRT nor DEI courses, programs or professors who teach subject matter that includes those acronyms.

“First, I directed our Provost to conduct a keyword search in our software repository of all full-time and adjunct faculty syllabi for DEI; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; CRT; and Critical Race Theory. Neither DEI; nor Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; nor CRT; nor Critical Race Theory appear in any TCC faculty syllabus,” said TCC President Jim Murdaugh in a letter sent to state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz.

“TCC does not have any “CRT” program or activity. If CRT is discussed by students on campus it is subject to civil debate and discussion, just like any other theory or topic within the academic environment, to allow students freedom to form their own opinions…While TCC has programs and activities that encourage participation of students of a given gender or race, none of those programs or activities limit participation of students of a different gender or race,” Murdaugh explained.

The letter comes as the Florida Council of Presidents, the association representing the state’s 12 public community and state colleges, recently issued a statement on CRT and DEI. In their letter, the presidents acknowledged the historical underpinnings of DEI as a tool to increase “diversity of thought … and the success of underrepresented populations” but also note that “some initiatives and instruction in higher education under the same title have come to mean and accomplish the very opposite and seek to push ideologies such as critical race theory and its related tenets.”

What CRT actually is versus what opponents think it is

Critical race theory is an academic theory used by some historians, sociologists and legal scholars to examine the ways that racism has impacted government policies. However, the term for some Republicans has come to mean an effort to make white people feel guilty about America’s racial past. It’s become a flashpoint in recent years, amid backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the social justice protests that followed high-profile deaths of Black people by police.

“To be clear in this environment, the FCS presidents, by and through the FCS Council of Presidents (COP), will ensure that all initiatives, instruction, and activities do not promote any ideology that suppresses intellectual and academic freedom, freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning,” wrote the Florida Council of Presidents in a statement.

The council, made up of the presidents of the state’s public community and state colleges, also promised to not fund or support any programs or academic requirement that “compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analyzed and/or improved upon.”

TCC is a signatory on the letter.

Florida State University’s Response

Florida State University listed 34 courses that have a focus on race, gender and class. Among them:

• AFA3101: Theory of African American Studies: This course engages theories of race discrimination and oppression as it relates to African Americans. Students systematically and objectively examine the sources of American oppression and explore how it shapes the life chances of African Americans from prior to the Reconstruction Era to the twenty-first century. The course explores the timing and manner of their entry into U.S. society, conflicts with other groups, encounters with prejudice and discrimination, as well as the extent to which they have secured access to cultural, economic, political, and social assimilation into U.S. society.

• AMH2097: Nationality, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States: This course explores the history of immigration to the United States. Topics include the evolution of ethnic cultures and the role of race in adjustment, and related conflicts from colonial times to the present. The course does not count as credit toward the history major.

• HIS3491: Medicine and Society: This course examines the development of public health and the history of medicine in the United States from the colonial period to the present. Topics cover changes in medical knowledge, the medical profession, government responsibilities, and public responses; how individuals accept, modify, or reject medical authority; how race, class, gender, and ethnicity shape health practices and the delivery of medical care; how the health of a community can be protected; and what constitutes a public health hazard.

• IDH3113: America Abroad: This course examines the history of U.S. presence abroad by analyzing cultural texts produced by and/or for a U.S. audience. Engaging feminist, queer, and ethnic studies insights into transnational power relations, students consider how race, gender, class, and sexuality dynamics inform how U.S. presence abroad has been represented in different time periods.

FSU also listed 23 programs that use DEI: such as its President's Council on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, a Diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, and similar ones at the university’s Colleges of Law, Business, Nursing and Communications.

The 57 programs, activities and courses FSU submitted to the state come up to around $2.5 million in total spending, with about 86% of that funded with state money. FSU’s overall budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year is $2.36 billion.

Florida A&M University’s Response

Florida A&M University, the state’s only public Historically Black College, responded to the state’s request with 15 programs and activities. None include references to critical race theory (CRT) while others include terms like “social justice, inclusion, and Diversity Equity & Inclusion.” Among the programs submitted with the largest expenditures:

• Meek-Eaton Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum: The center was founded in 1976 by Florida A&M University history professor, Dr. James N. Eaton. It officially opened in historic Carnegie Library on FAMU’s campus. Since that time, the Black Archives has served as a research center for individuals of various ages, ethnicities, and interests. By functioning both as a repository for archival records and a museum for historical regalia, the center continues to render academic support to educational institutions, civic, political, religious and social groups, as well as public and private businesses throughout Florida and the nation $353,844.00 (in state money)

• Center for Disability Access and Resources: The mission of the CeDAR is to provide enriching support programs, services, and reasonable accommodations to FAMU students with disabilities. Our mission is to also foster a sense of empowerment in students with disabilities by educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities so that they can make informed choices, be critical thinkers, and self-advocates. Our goal is to ensure students with disabilities have access to the same programs, opportunities, and activities available to all FAMU students. $322,172.38 (in state money)

• The Center for Environmental Equity and Justice: The mission of the Center for Environmental Equity and Justice is to conduct and facilitate research, develop policies, engage in education, training, and community outreach activities with respect to environmental equity and justice issues for the state of Florida $1,791,919.30 (in state money)

• Institute of Public Health (IPH): Florida A&M University (FAMU) Institute of Public Health (IPH) was created by the 1995 Florida Legislature with the mission of improving the health status of Florida’s diverse poor and underserved. The mission of the FAMU Public Health Program is to develop the practice of culturally competent public health practitioners and leaders through graduate training, research, and service. Thus, the contribution of the FAMU Public Health Program to the public health workforce should substantially improve the health status of the diverse poor and underserved. $1,495,976.84 (in state money)

FAMU listed a total dollar amount of$ 4,436,667.42 spent on those programs, with nearly 93% of those dollars coming from the state. FAMU’s overall budget was about $375 million in 2020.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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