Senate committee OKs bill eliminating Florida universities’ diversity initiatives

High school and college students, faculty and others spoke out against SB 266 during an hourlong public comment session packed with emotional moments.

Despite pleas from students, faculty and Democrats, a Senate bill targeting state universities and colleges’ diversity programs and faculty tenure moved a step closer to passage Wednesday.

A Senate education postsecondary committee approved SB 266. A House subcommittee approved the House version of the bill (HB 999) earlier this week.

SB 266 would forbid schools from hiring employees based on diversity, equity and inclusion, otherwise known as DEI. Schools also couldn’t spend money on DEI programs and would be required to eliminate majors or minors in critical race theory and gender studies. 

“There’s nothing in this bill that prohibits anything from being taught,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican from Fort Pierce. “What this bill says is that all voices should be heard, that there isn’t a one and singular right answer to any of the theories that we discuss in a higher education environment.”

But critics said they fear the consequences will be an exodus of Florida students leaving the state to go college, or Florida universities struggling to recruit faculty.

“Higher education is the place where students go to explore and to have diversity of thought,” said Sen. Shervin Jones. “We are going down a route where we will have a hard time recruiting good faculty and students to the (state) and I’m warning us as a body that we be careful in how we are playing our politics.”

Another component of the bill allows universities to do a post-tenure review of a faculty member “at any time with cause.”

The Senate committee rejected Sen. Lauren Book’s amendment which would have protected tenured professors from being brought in for a post-tenure review because of their political affiliation or their Constitution-protected speech.

“We want to ensure that there is as much freedom as possible in higher learning institutions and that professors can teach children without fear of reprisal,” Book said before the committee voted her amendment down by party lines.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been attacking higher education and has pushed for controversial changes. He ousted the trustees at New College of Florida, a liberal arts school in Sarasota, and replaced them with conservative leaders who have vowed to change the school’s mission.

DeSantis asked Florida schools to tally up how much money they spent last year on critical race theory and DEI-related staff, programs and campus activities.

State universities reported spending $34.5 million — $20.7 million of that from state funds — according to staff analysis of the Senate bill. 

High school and college students, faculty and others spoke out against the bill Wednesday during an hourlong public comment session that was at times emotionally charged.

“The sad part about it is how many university administrators came up and spoke? Not one,” said Jones, a Democrat from Miami Gardens. “You know why? Because it’s a Catch-22 for them. They won’t come up and speak because they fear they’re going to lose their job.”

Florida State University senior and student government leader Eric Rivers said Grall had “sheer gall” to post a quote by Martin Luther King, who fought for diversity, on her social media and then propose this legislation.

Andrew Gothard, the president of the United Faculty of Florida who supported Book’s amendment, said conservative professors in particular are concerned about losing their tenure and being targeted for their political reviews. If Democrats take over the state government in the future, he posited, the Republicans’ push to erode tenure could backfire, he said.

“There are Republicans in power. That may not always be the case,” Gothard said. “We’re passing laws that we’re thinking about, ‘How is this going to protect higher education faculty in the long term?’”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Earl Pitts American

    March 15, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    Good Evening America,
    Thank goodness Ron took my sage advice and had a “Come To Ron” meeting with those in The Senate who were showing a clear and present danger of morphing into leftist serving RINO’s on all things queer and also on gun carry legislation.
    Thank you Ron and say your prayers leftist weasels The Great Legislature of The Great State of Florida is going to make this Session the best ever. Say Your Prayers Leftist Weasels.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts American

  • Ian

    March 15, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Can’t win a general without Florida and this trash all but garuntees that you want.

    Hey scholars and geniuses, playing exclusively to a base that is to small is just as stupid as the mindsets of the votes that you’re seeking. At any rate, this clown thinks he can totally a rob another guys shtick that worked in 2016 is just shortsighted

  • Ian

    March 15, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    He has no personality which matters In personality politics!!

  • Ian

    March 15, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    Some idiot thinks only old, angry white guys vote. Let’s see

  • Ian

    March 15, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    At least you got this poser earl pitts fake vote. Run w that. Clown vote is secured

  • Ian

    March 15, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    Literally banking on there is more stupid Americans, more stupid republicans than not and applying a very poor political calculus in which stupid faux republicans take over the dem and I vote.

    I mean, I took statistics at the same university he did. What an absolute clown

  • Earl Pitts American

    March 15, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    Good evening America,
    Ian is suffering from severe leftist dysphoria along with CNN adiction. He’s agreed to enter our Conservative Reeducation Center (CRC) located in a remote facility in one of The Great State of Florida’s Wildelife Management Areas to undergo several months of intensive treatment. We’ve arrainged for a “Fake Ian” to continue posting here for the next several months while we totally cure the Real Ian.
    Now relax buddy we will have you relocated to the CRC reeducation facility within 24 hours.
    The next post you see will be made by the “Fake Ian”.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts Americab

  • Marvin

    March 17, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    diversity is just code for hire the unqualified just because they check off all of the right boxes.

Comments are closed.


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