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New Florida Bill Would Give Governor Complete Control Over Higher Education System

HB 999 says that all colleges and universities must not spend money on education programs, or other things that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

By Stacy M. Brown
WI Senior Writer

In perhaps the most racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic bill crafted since the end of slavery in America, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican cronies have authored a bill that takes “breathtaking control of viewpoint and content throughout all academic activity in the entire Florida system.”
HB 999 says that all colleges and universities must not spend money on education programs, or other things that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“This bill is a road map for wrecking one of our great state systems of higher education,” the University of Michigan Law Professor Julian Davis Mortenson tweeted.

The bill eliminates Women’s and Gender Studies as a major or minor at state colleges and universities.
It dictates that there can’t be a major or minor that is “based on the belief system of Critical Race Theory.”

According to the text of the bill, the university president or board would do all faculty hiring. It asserts that they “may not delegate” any aspect of any hiring decision or hiring authority to any group or faculty however constituted.

Further, the bill asserts that they are “not required to consider recommendations or opinions of faculty.”
Jeremy C. Young, Pen America’s senior manager of Free Expression and Education, called the bill “terrifying.”

Pen America is a non-profit group that protects and promotes free speech around the world by promoting literature and human rights.

“Florida HB 999 would enact the most Draconian and censorious restrictions on higher education in the history of this country,” Young stated.

“The bill would make tenure and faculty hiring committees meaningless, ban diversity statements, and centralize control of core curricula and mission statements in the hands of political appointees,” Young said.
“Unexpectedly, it would also ban gender studies majors.”

Florida’s HB 999 would end state public higher education in favor of one man’s authoritarian control of public university decisions and end academic freedom and shared governance, Young added. He observed that the bill would stop higher education in Florida from being a place where people could ask questions and speak their minds freely.

“Free expression and higher education advocates must fight these provisions with everything we have, in Florida and any other state where they appear,” Young demanded.
“HB 999 is the central battleground for the soul of higher education. If we stand on the sidelines, we will lose.”

DeSantis has repeatedly said he would fight censorship against Floridians from big tech companies and social media platforms.

He also said the state should ban “ideology” and “indoctrination” in state schools.

The bombastic governor said Florida education should be “rooted in the values of liberty and the western tradition” and block public institutions from “supporting campus activities or programs that promote” so-called divisive concepts such as CRT or DEI.

The new law would build on the governor’s Stop WOKE Act from 2022, which says that certain ideas about race can’t be taught in schools.

The new bill would prohibit specific academic concepts, putting the governor’s calls into legislation.
The bill text states the hiring process rule applies to any position at a university, including the president.
Further, faculty members’ tenure status would also be open for review by the board of trustees at the request of a board’s chair.

HB 999 prohibits officials from using university resources to “promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion, whether directly or through contracts, grants, or service agreements.”

In January, DeSantis talked about tenure and hiring practices for Florida universities.

He said the change would allow the state to prevent “certain worldviews” from being promoted when faculty committees make academic hiring decisions.

Study of Western civilization, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, subsequent amendments, and the Federalist Papers would also be required.

There are also requirements and changes for college and university courses focusing on social sciences and behavior, natural sciences, and math.

If the bill passes the Florida Legislature, it will take effect on July 1.

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