The Florida State House introduced a bill this week that would prohibit state colleges and universities from using funds to “advance, support, or sustain programs or campus activities that promote diversity, equity, or inclusion.” [DEI] or critical race theory rhetoric.” The bill would also give the state board of governors the ability to “remove any major or minor that is based on or otherwise uses critical theory pedagogical methods.”
The bill, HB 999, passed the House of Representatives Monday, and the Florida State Senate must now pass its version of the bill, SB 266, before it can go to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Opponents of the bill fear its language is too vague and could be used to ban activities promoted by multicultural student unions, black fraternities and sororities, as well as courses in Jewish history, women’s studies and LGBTQ+ studies.
An official analysis of the bill cited examples of current courses that would be banned under the bill, including Florida Atlantic University’s “Gender and Climate Change” and Florida State University’s “Social (In)Equalities: Social Construction of Difference and Inequalities.”
A tweet Comedian DL Hughley’s bill, which outlined some of the other programs thought to be at risk, even went viral on social media.
While the bill doesn’t specifically ban many of the groups mentioned in the tweet, activists and lawmakers alike have raised concerns about how the language could be used to target specific programs.
When asked Monday by Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson how the law would affect student centers such as “Black student unions, pride centers, multicultural student centers and multifaith advisory boards,” Republican who introduced the bill, Rep. Alex Andrade, replied, said that for the “vast majority” of said groups “that is not the case. The bill does not apply to them.”
“These student groups can continue to operate as they see fit at this time, subject only to the content neutral policies and procedures common to all student organizations on campus,” he added.
Democratic State Assemblyman Angie Nixon sought to amend the law to provide further protections for certain groups she believes are at risk. Her amendment was rejected by the House of Representatives.
“Let’s stop walking down this dangerous path of censorship and restricting free speech in our public colleges and get back to solving the problems that Floridians are demanding,” Nixon said tweeted Monday after the bill advanced.
Andrade took to Twitter on Wednesday after former state congressman Carlos Guillermo, an opponent of the legislation, noted that Andrade was the only Republican to offer a debate or explanation on the bill, writing, “It’s hard to debate while being shouted down and threatened by angry liberals… DEI advocates an open HATE debate.”
When Guillermo responded and Andrades accused fellow Republicans of being “scared” of their constituents, Andrade said answered“That’s your brain on DEI.”
The American Historical Association has condemned the bill, writing in a statement: “We express dismay (not our usual ‘concern’) at the assumptions lying at the heart of this bill and its blatant and frontal attack on the principles of academic freedom and of shared governance central to higher education in the United States.”
“This isn’t just about Florida. It’s about the heart and soul of public higher education in the United States and the role of history, historians, and historical thought in the lives of the next generation of Americans,” the AHA added.
Andrade, who has taken to Twitter to appear to be promoting the bill, wrote “DEI advocates open debate of HATE” in a quote-tweet-response to former Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who publicly denounced HB 999.
Andrade also reacted to this several tweets on different topics: “This is your brain on DEI.”