Tallahassee students join protesters around Florida fighting DEI bills
Student groups held protests Tuesday to decry a higher-education bill designed to carry out Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state colleges and universities.
The bill (HB 999), in part, would prohibit colleges and universities from spending state or federal money to “promote, support, or maintain” programs or activities that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion or “promote or engage in political or social” activism.
Groups such as the Florida Student Power Network and the Florida State University College Democrats and leaders from the Florida A&M University Pan-Hellenic Council held protests opposing the bill in the Capitol and on the FAMU campus.
Ana Guevara, executive director of the Student Power Network, characterized the bill as an attempt to boost DeSantis’ profile as he sets the stage for a possible 2024 presidential candidacy. “As we enter another legislative session, we are seeing massive attacks on our communities for political gain as the governor is planning a 2024 presidential election,” Guevara said.
Democratic lawmakers and Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried attended the protests. The proposal also would require the state university system’s Board of Governors to “periodically review the mission” of each university and direct the schools to remove any degree major or minor that incorporates “pedagogical methodology associated with” critical theory.
The bill defines critical theory as including concepts such as critical race theory, which is based on the premise that racism is embedded in American institutions. During a news conference this month, DeSantis described diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as being among the “discriminatory programs and activities” that the bill seeks to eliminate.
The House proposal would require approval from the Education & Employment Committee before it can be considered by the full House. A similar Senate bill (SB 266) would need approval from two committees before it could go to the full Senate.