Gov. DeSantis signs measure policing state higher ed to stamp out ‘monoculture’
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The legislation's sponsors cited incidents in other states in arguing for the bill.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is signing legislation that would more closely regulate the diversity of speakers at the state’s universities and colleges — and guard against a purported political bent in public higher education.

The legislation (HB 931) will create an Office of Public Policy Events through the Board of Governors and the State University System that would put a satellite office on each campus. Those offices would ensure speakers representing “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints be presented.

Republican sponsors of the bill say they are taking on a monoculture they believe has developed on campuses. In committee, they’ve cited incidents around the country, including one at Stanford University where students heckled and shut down a judge who refused to call a transgender woman by her preferred pronouns.

With the sound of protest in the background, the Governor again cited that incident, and another at San Francisco State University during which a female collegiate swimmer said she was assaulted at an event opposing transgender women athletes competing against cisgender women.

“That is wrong and I think it shows a cancer that has developed at some of these institutions amongst the students that’s antithetical to what a higher education is all about,” DeSantis said.

Democrats, however, have called the legislation an answer in search of a problem. They have argued that the state’s higher education institutions are the home of plenty of diversity of thought, pointing to the state’s consistently high rankings nationally.

Democrats also raised the alarm that the wording of the bill could mean the state’s universities and colleges have to find speakers to make the case for the Nazis or Holocaust denialism, or maybe the benefits of chattel slavery.

The bill’s House sponsor said Florida is leading the nation in enacting a law pushing against the so-called campus monoculture.

“These universities, for too long, have put a premium on people that look different, but think the same,” said Republican Rep. Spencer Roach. “That’s not diversity, that’s conforming. That’s what we’re trying to change here.”

The measure would mandate a schedule of events be posted and a video library of all forums and debates be available online for at least five years after an event. It would also specifically prohibit Florida’s public institutions of higher education from asking anyone to submit to a particular political loyalty test as a condition of employment or admission.

The legislation is one of a number of bills seeking to reshape higher education, or at least change current practices. Other bills are taking on tenure and institutional promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Rep. Keith Perry cited a question in an application at Florida Atlantic University as an example of the problem. The question read, “How can you play an active role in addressing and dismantling systemic racism?” Perry argued that framing assumed it was a fact that systemic racing still exists.

At the bill signing, Roach was among the lineup of speakers who poked fun at the sounds of protest outside.

“One of the things America’s Governor (DeSantis) is fond of saying is that Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die,” Roach said, to a swell of applause. “What you’re hearing outside, that’s what ‘woke’ sounds like when it goes to die.”

A charge of laughter rippled through the crowd.

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].


10 comments

  • Michael K

    May 15, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    A small minded, pompous bully, dragging Florida back to a new era of Jim Crow just to appeal to a small-minded base of MAGA racists, xenophobes and homophobes. Just watch the Florida university rankings start tanking.

    • Dont Say FLA

      May 15, 2023 at 12:59 pm

      I almost feel sorry for the guy. Bullies beat him up daily as a child, yelling “Why are you punching yourself in the face, Rhonda?” He is haplessly repeating the cycle of the bully, except now it’s all Floridians that are his victims. So, no, I do not feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for Floridians.

  • SteveHC

    May 15, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    This is indeed yet ANOTHER instance among what is now a MULTITUDE of instances wherein DeSantis and his legislative sycophants waste Floridian taxpayers’ hard-earned yet easily-spent tax dollars on creating legislative “solutions” to NON-EXISTENT “problems” in Florida. It is nothing short of mean political grandstanding b.s. at its very worst.

    • The GOP is the Dog That Caught The Car

      May 15, 2023 at 1:05 pm

      The GOP caught the car Roe and Wade were driving. They caught that car they chased for 50+ years, and now they have absolutely no clue what to do. They are flailing, tossing darts in all directions, trying to find some group of “other” people the darts will stick in. Rather than tossing darts, they need to stick a fork in it. They’re done.

  • Dont Say FLA

    May 15, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Rhonda is 100% FOR diversity whenever that means giving whiate nationalists a platform. Otherwise, do not speak of diversity because that’s “woke.” Got it. What a joker. How can anybody take Rhonda seriously? It’s beyond me!

  • SteveHC

    May 15, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    “The bill’s Senate sponsor, Rep. Keith Perry cited a question in an application at Florida Atlantic University as an example of the problem.” – WHAT application? For what program?
    “Perry argued that framing assumed it was a fact that systemic slavery still exists.” – It DOES still exist, but not *here*… and no one, including FAU, has been claiming that it exists here.
    This is a good example of how politicians generally know nothing about academic programs and should just stick to their day jobs instead of trying to dictate to education professionals. If they keep this nonsense up they will succeed only at driving the best students’ families and the very best higher ed professionals out of Florida altogether.

    • Joe

      May 15, 2023 at 10:15 pm

      Just to emphasize your point, the distinguished Rep quoted here is a roofing contractor who never went to college, making these uninformed statements about higher education in Florida.

  • May June

    May 15, 2023 at 1:20 pm

    It was delectable to watch Trustee Twink(le) having his “I’m ready for my close-up” Gloria Swanson moment. What a cutie, and such a winner he is waving and blowing kisses at the crowd.
    To think that Eddie Speir got canned but this astute toady still gets to bask in the gloating guv’nor’s sunshine!!

  • Joe

    May 15, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    Instituting a monoculture to stamp out monoculture… guess we’ll see!

  • James Dunifon

    May 15, 2023 at 10:32 pm

    Florida isn’t a state that I would ever go visit, ever because of DeSantis, he alone is enough for me and my family to never travel there. Glad we have Disneyland LOL!

Comments are closed.


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