Florida College System Presidents back Gov. DeSantis’ higher education vision
Gov. Ron DeSantis. Image via AP.

ron desantis
The Governor has sought to quash 'the progressivist higher education agenda.' '

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. hailed a statement Wednesday from the Florida College System’s Presidents as support for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vision of higher education — “a repudiation of the progressivist higher education agenda.” 

Presidents of the system’s 28 state-funded institutions where some 813,000 college students attend are currently working to ensure no activities, policies or instruction that compel “belief in Critical Race Theory (CRT)” are happening on the state-funded campuses, the state Board of Education was told Wednesday.

John Avendano, President of Florida State College at Jacksonville, said his fellow college Presidents will have fully evaluated and removed this kind of instruction, policy or training — which critics say is an enemy of free thought — from their institutions by Feb. 1.

After Avendano’s statement, Diaz reiterated to the Board of Education what this means.

“Today, the Florida College System Presidents publicly supported the Governor’s vision of higher education,” Diaz said. “Their (FSC Presidents) statement … commits to removing all woke positions and ideologies and it stands squarely in the camp of educational freedom and education for democratic citizenship.”

There was no mention at Wednesday’s meeting, however, that the Governor’s vision is currently undergoing a legal challenge. A federal injunction was issued in November against enforcing the legislation (HB 7) passed last year that prohibited “wokeness” on campuses.

The law prohibits instruction, training or policies that make anyone feel uncomfortable or guilty because of their race, gender or national origin. It also gave individuals the right to sue if that happens.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker called the law “positively dystopian” in the vague way it polices instruction.

“Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves,” Walker wrote.

The injunction is currently being appealed at the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which is stacked with federal judges appointed by Republican Donald Trump.

The State Board of Education Chair Tom Grady called Avendano’s statement at Wednesday’s Board meeting ‘interesting” and asked Avendano to clarify further.

“I’m guessing that because all college Presidents have adopted this, that you have come to believe that essentially diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) mean the opposite of what those words have always historically meant,” Grady said. “Is that part of the essence of your statement?”

Avendano answered, slowly saying, “In essence … it is: ‘We are free to explore all thoughts.’ That is what we want to do.”

The college President’s Wednesday announcement of the FCS’s unified approach to CRT and DEI  — looking to remove it — reflects a similar development at New College in Sarasota, another state-funded institution. There, DeSantis appointed activists opposed to critical race theory onto New College’s Board of Trustees.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


13 comments

  • Victoria

    January 18, 2023 at 6:42 pm

    College Presidents know that Critical Race Theory is not taught in Florida classrooms. But they will let the Governor pull his stunt for the cameras and go on with teaching college curricula.

  • Jay Smif

    January 18, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    Pudgy fascist Ron Desantis has made the education system the laughingstock of the entire nation, and with any luck, traitor Greg Stuebe will die of his injuries today.

  • Mac Wiseman

    January 18, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Y’all still here? Vicky and Smif just in case y’all did not get the memo Florida is where woke goes to die. Now scoot along you two. Load up your Subaru and Volvo and move along to a leftist state. Hey y’all can still wear those masks there, hide your ugly faces, and not be a freakazoid weirdo still in a mask like you are here in Florida home of the brave and free. Get along now you two trouble makers Florida is not the place for you.

    • Really

      January 18, 2023 at 10:42 pm

      “Florida is where woke goes to die”

      Oh I thought it was where your retirement savings went after he drives your economy off a cliff? Lol

    • Tjb

      January 19, 2023 at 10:00 am

      Mac, can you tell me exactly what “woke” means in its truest definition?

    • cassandra

      January 19, 2023 at 4:33 pm

      What does “woke” mean, Mac? PIPSQUEAK RONA won’t tell you???

      You sound so insecure about classroom discussions that might “make anyone (you) feel uncomfortable or guilty.” Be a man, Mac. Sticks and stones (lolol)…! Watch out, puss–Trump’s gonna grab you!

      What’s that you MAGAts like to say, Mac? FK your feelings? Fragile MAGAt males! Mackie, you need a safespace to GO CRY. You and PRISSY RONNIE–so scared..

  • tom palmer

    January 18, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    What else do you expect state employees to do under the vindictive DeSantis regime?

  • Josh Green

    January 18, 2023 at 9:53 pm

    Republicans know that Conservatism is a failing idea, so now they’ve resorted to trying to take over the education system to spread their filthy propaganda.

  • KEN MCKINNEY

    January 19, 2023 at 9:42 am

    Desantis better check his presidential poll numbers. Coming in 20 points below Trump? Time to blow away the smoke and look at your marshmallows.

  • Pat

    January 19, 2023 at 5:48 pm

    DeSantis is a fool and discriminates against people who believe in freedom for all.

  • Shay

    January 19, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    What next removing Native American history because they were mistreated, the Holocaust because the inhumane treatment may make people uncomfortable. Are you kidding me? Everyone’s tax dollars go to these public universities where at one time you went to learn about all cultures and as adults you could pick and choose your classes according what you felt comfortable with. If we start removing everything that might a person feel uncomfortable there would no longer be higher education to compete with the world. Remember you can choose your classes, if you feel uncomfortable don’t select the class. Dissecting a frog makes me feel uncomfortable maybe biology should be removed.
    Ridiculous !!!! Talking about politics being self serving.

  • Jameson

    January 19, 2023 at 9:21 pm

    I once asked 50 students in two separate lit class at a Florida College to tell me who Frederick Douglass is. One or two shouted out “Wasn’t he a president?” “”Didn’t he do something with civil rights?” CRT is not being taughtl; history is barely being taught. Florida schools are failing so DeSantis creates the villain to attack, taking a page out of Trump’s WWE playbook. The villain is CRT or Wokeness. Nevermind that kids are graduating high school unable to read, write or think–some of them are dealing with extreme poverty and gun violence and lack of affordable housing,
    DeSantis is doing his best to demolish what’s left of education in the state. Uneducated people are easy to control.

    • judi

      January 19, 2023 at 10:43 pm

      well said Jameson-

Comments are closed.


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