Last week the Florida House of Representatives introduced House Bill 99: “An act relating to public postsecondary educational institutions.” Read it here.
Here are some of the detailsInstitutions of higher education in Florida to educate students “for citizenship in a constitutional republic.” Institutions of higher education in Florida to remove any programs related to “Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative major or minor of these belief systems, which is any major or minor that engenders beliefs in the concepts defined…” Tenured faculty must undergo a “comprehensive post-tenure review every 5 years.” Members of the board of trustees can “review any faculty member’s tenure status.” The board of trustees at institutions of higher education in Florida are responsible for hiring faculty of universities and the board is “not required to consider recommendations or opinions of faculty of the university or other individuals or groups.” Institutions of higher education in Florida are “prohibited from using diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, Critical Race Theory rhetoric, or other forms of political identity filters as part of the hiring process, including as part of applications for employment, promotion and tenure, conditions of employment, or reviewing qualifications for employment.” Institutions of higher education in Florida cannot spend money to “promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities…that espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.” The bill establishes of The Florida Institute for Governance and Civics at Florida State University to (1) provide “students with access to an interdisciplinary hub that will develop academically rigorous scholarship and coursework on the origins of the American system of government, its foundational documents, its subsequent political traditions and evolutions, and its impact on comparative political systems”; (2). Encourage “civic literacy in the state through the development of educational tools and resources for K-12 and postsecondary students that foster an understanding of how individual rights, constitutionalism, separation of powers, and federalism function within the America system of government;” (3) model “civic discourse that recognizes the importance of viewpoint diversity, intellectual rigor, and an evidence-based approach to history;” (4) plan and host “forums to allow students and guests to hear from exceptional individuals who have excelled in a wide range of sectors of American life to highlight the possibilities created by individual achievement and entrepreneurial vision; (5) become “a national and state resource on polling instruments and other assessments to measure civil literacy and make recommendations for improving civic education;;” (6) provide “fellowships and internship opportunities to students in government; ” (7) create through scholarship, original research, publications, symposia, testimonials, and other means a body of resources that can be accessed by students, scholars, and government officials to understand the innovations in public policy in the state over a rolling 30-year time period.” Institutions of higher education in Florida must establish general education courses in five fields: communication, math, social science, humanities, and natural sciences. Students must complete one course in each of these fields in order to graduate. These courses “may not suppress or distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, such as Critical Race Theory, or defines American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. These courses must also “promote the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization and include studies of this nation’s historical documents, including the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments thereto, and the Federalist Papers.”
Here are some of my takeaways:Do colleges and universities have majors or minors in Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality? It seems like the ideas associated with these theories are often embedded in disciplinary fields such as history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, literary studies, etc… For example, I don’t know how one teaches American history without dealing with these some of the ideas embedded in these theories. I am not against gender studies programs, but if this bill passes “gender studies” will remain embedded in the aforementioned fields and departments. Post-tenure reviews are common. I have one very five years. But in the context of Florida and the political sensibilities of Ron DeSantis, these post-tenure reviews could easily serve as a weapon to purge faculty who have political views that are different than DeSantis or the Florida GOP. How will the Board of Trustees or the President of a university conduct job searches without faculty input? Politics aside, this seems logistically impossible. If I read this bill correctly, a university must close its DEI programs and cannot spend money on any programs related to the promotion of diverse voices on campus. This is insane. In other words, a bill that wants to educate students to live in a “constitutional republic” will not permit certain voices on campus. This is not about free speech or academic freedom, it’s about politics. Just describe the “Institute for Governance and Civics” at Florida State University as a conservative think tank. If I read the general education standards correctly, students will not have access to courses such as African American history since it is a course built around an “identity” group. The phrase “may not suppress or distort significant events” is left vague enough to give DeSantis and the Florida GOP the ability to cancel history courses they do not like. Moreover, I am not sure how a course in math or the natural sciences will be able to “promote the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization and include studies of this nation’s historical documents, including the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments thereto, and the Federalist Papers.” Finally, I wonder what DeSantis would say about a course that “defines American history…based on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and then shows how the United States has often failed to live up to those ideals.