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In the wake of his second inauguration, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, has sent an order to all state universities requesting information about the funding used on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) initiatives and has also named six prominent conservatives to the Board of Trustees at the New College of Florida.
The memorandum, sent by Chris Spencer, director of the Florida Office of Policy and Budget, asks that Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and Chancellor Ray Rodrigues provide information on expenditures related to DEI and CRT. The instructions state:
“As the Executive Office of the Governor prepares policy and budget proposals ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, it is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions. Governor Ron DeSantis has prioritized a cost-effective higher education system that delivers high quality service to Floridians to best prepare them for employment. Additionally state law requires dutiful attention to curriculum content at our higher education systems.”
Each college must submit a list of all staff and activities advancing DEI and CRT and they must also provide how much total and state-provided funding is spent on such programs.
The order has caused alarm among some in education and among some politicians. Andrew Gothard, professor at Florida State University as well as United Faculty of Florida, said,
“Attempts such as these by the governor to chill speech and to intimidate those he disagrees with into remaining silent, altering their curriculum, and silencing their students are an affront to democracy and the American way of life. Let those who supported Governor DeSantis in the recent election heed this warning: A man who will silence those whom he disagrees — in the classroom and beyond — will one day find a reason to silence you as well.”
The order is only a request for information, yet there is little doubt what the governor’s aim is in obtaining it. DeSantis has stated that “Florida is where woke goes to die” and signed the “Stop WOKE Act” to combat DEI and CRT.
In another effort, the governor added six conservatives to the Board of Trustees for the New College of Florida. These include Christopher Rufo, a journalist and fellow at the Manhattan Institute who is known for rooting out harmful gender and race initiatives at K-12 schools and colleges, and Matthew Spalding, dean of Hillsdale College’s Graduate School of Government.
The school, located in Sarasota, has over 700 students and approximately 90 faculty members. It has increasingly pursued a radical progressive agenda, including expanding DEI initiatives, but the result has been dismal, with the school failing to reach its 2022 enrollment goal by 45 percent.
The new conservative majority of the school plans to restructure the curriculum to a “classical liberal arts model.” Making that happen, Rufo has said, would require abolishing the New College of Florida’s “just, diverse, equitable and inclusive community” and replacing it with “equity, merit and colorblindness.”
At his inaugural address kicking off his second term last week, Gov. DeSantis said, “We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology.”
Quisha King, senior director of Moms for America, celebrated the move for more financial transparency at public universities, saying, “It’s important that we continue to peel back the layers and see exactly what is going on, where this money is and why they are putting so much money into the diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, because we want to make sure that they are educating and not indoctrinating.”
She added, “You do not get the opportunity to indoctrinate our children. We know what we want as parents, and we want you to properly educate them. And we’re not going to back down from that.”
Florida gave $5.7 billion to state colleges in 2021, with over 75 percent of that coming from taxes. While nationally the cost of college has increasingly been placed on students, Florida continues to pay a high share of the cost. Nationally, students pay 42 percent of universities’ net revenue, while in Florida students pay just 22 percent. Even with this reduced percentage, Florida students are incurring debt to pay for their education, with 2.6 million Floridians holding an average of more than $35,000 in student loans.
The Florida State University System and the Department of Education have until January 13 to respond to the governor’s request.
Florida’s leaders have a duty to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and aren’t used to further a particular ideology. Colleges have grown accustomed to receiving billions in public funding while having mostly free rein on how to use it.
Public dollars are given on the assumption that students will attend these institutions and learn, leaving as more educated adults. These universities are expected to prepare students for a career, not only improving their lives but also performing the jobs beneficial to society and pouring economic benefits into the state economy.
Unfortunately, many universities are not only failing to provide an education that translates to prosperity for students and society, but they are increasing the cost of education, much of which has become an increasingly heavy, even unbearable, financial burden for students just starting out in life.
CRT and DEI are harmful ideologies that universities advance wholeheartedly. They are not academic subjects to be taught but sanctioned racist and gender lenses through which students are forced to focus solely on people’s immutable characteristics like skin color or sex, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than their merit and character.
These ideologies go against both the character of God, whose love and salvation don’t show favoritism based on race or biology (Acts 10:34-35), and the vision of the Rev. Martin Luther King, who held, based on his biblical worldview, that society will only be just when people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Given all of this, the public has every right to know how much money is being spent on advancing these harmful ideologies rather than on academic excellence.
For Christians, there should be no acceptance of this type of brainwashing, which is based on envy, vengeance, and a need to destroy. Its aim is to create division, strife, fear, and even paranoia among not only students but also the larger populace as these students graduate and take these perverse ideas into the business world, schools, government, cultural institutions, and even churches.
Proverbs 10:23 warns, “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.”
No righteous leader of a government or university should stand by and watch as schools indulge their own self-serving agenda and push radical, woke ideas at the expense of students’ education and future well-being. To do so would be the opposite of wisdom.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.