On January 17th, 2024, the Florida State Board of Education passed a ruling that will strictly limit public funding towards DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives in the Florida College System. This ruling comes with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ long campaign against “WOKE” policies in Florida. The bill details how education should be “free from undue political influence” and therefore DEI values should not be allowed in Florida community or state colleges. The Board of Education believes that individuals should not be categorized based on race or sex. Rather, higher education should be based solely on academic progress and integrity.
DeSantis has been Governor of Florida since early 2019 and subsequently has introduced severe education reform in his state, both in K-12 and higher education. He has targeted reproductive health instruction, limiting it by teaching reproductive roles as binary and unchanging. Alongside this he has restricted LGBTQ+ rights by passing bills that entirely diminish the possibility for gender and sexuality expression within the public school system.
DEI in higher education has come a long way, becoming more robust over time. Beginning in the 1970s with the introduction of Title IX, gender-based discrimination became illegal in institutions that received federal funding. Since the 70s DEI has progressed to becoming not only an initiative that supports equality in education but also one that celebrates and promotes diversity.
Without the structure of DEI on campuses in Florida there are already beginning to be results that directly impact the future of gender related subjects. Before the anti-DEI legislation was passed just this month, there had already been some massive changes to some of the top colleges in Florida. In January, 2023, DeSantis personally appointed individuals to the board of trustees of the “New College” in Florida. These board members took action to terminate the Gender Studies department of the University. Many of the faculty of the department had already quit in protest to the appointments of the board. Later in the year the board finalized the termination of the department and the course is no longer available to 2024 enrollees.