A new bill in Florida, backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, would reconfigure college curriculum and ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs across the state.
House Bill 999, sponsored by state Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Fla., was approved Monday in a party-line vote by the state House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee.
Also, more than 50 people reportedly showed up at the Monday hearing to oppose the bill.
The legislation would ban state schools from asking for or accepting pledges to endorse statements "for or against certain viewpoints about diversity, equity, and inclusion, Critical Race Theory rhetoric, or political identity or ideology, as part of any hiring, promotion, disciplinary, or evaluation process."
The proposed law would also prohibit any Florida college system institution, state university, or directly supported organization from using state or federal funds to support campus activities that either "advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion,"
"promote or engage in political activism," or promote "preferential treatment or special benefits to individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion."
State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Fla., expressed concerns about the bill, saying prior to Monday's debate that the legislation language is "so vague that HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges or Universities) or other institutions who have black fraternities and sororities on their campuses can practically say 'we will no longer be supporting you on our campuses based off of this law.'"
However, Andrade reiterated the bill would not limit student activities, no matter the political agenda.
"I believe that state universities should be focused on teaching students how to think, not what to think," said Andrade.
Also during the House debate on Monday, state Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Fla., told Andrade that black student unions and even LGBT+ organizations would be affected by the law.
Andrade then replied that "those student groups can continue to operate how they see fit currently, subject only to the policies and procedures that are content neutral that apply to all organizations, student organizations on campus."
The state Senate plans to debate the bill on Wednesday.
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