The Florida House Committee has advanced a bill that would abolish certain majors and minors, limit funding to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and give the board of trustees at universities more power.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2023
By Vaneti Ceus
Miami— A new bill in Florida has advanced that could bring major challenges to higher education and to all twelve of Florida’s public universities. House Bill 999, filed by Republican Rep. Alex Andrade, proposes to leave the hiring of all university faculty to the board of trustees and remove majors and minors related to gender studies and critical race theory. This new bill would also ban universities from spending money on activities that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and create new general education requirements.
Furthermore, general education courses that teach a curriculum centered on unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content would also be banned, putting many Florida colleges at a disadvantage. Politicians against this bill, such as Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, argue that the state should not dictate what students can or can not learn. The new bill does not define critical race theory rhetoric and issues bans in the hiring process for professors. State schools will also be forbidden from using diversity, equity, and inclusion statements in the hiring or promotion process for faculty.
Many students and professors across the state are outraged by this bill and have organized walkouts to protest their opposition, as many consider the bill an attack on students' academic freedom. There are more than 300,000 students at all 12 of Florida’s public universities that could all face the crippling effects of this bill, which, if passed, would virtually end their institutional autonomy.
House Bill 999 could forever change the structure of public universities within Florida and the type of information students are allowed to learn. According to the bill, general education 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.” Critics say that the bill may ruin the reputation of Florida’s public universities and lead to more limitations on free speech.
Director of Media Relations at Teens for Press Freedom, Ifeoma Okwuka, states, “House Bill 999 threatens to unravel academic freedom across the higher education system in Florida. The bill’s proposal to ban specific majors will limit the breadth of material that students have the opportunity to learn and engage with at the college level. This is not only dangerously restrictive but detrimental to their pursuit of knowledge about the world they currently inhabit. It’s essential that students be given the freedom to learn without the fear of governmental censorship.”