Miami Herald

DeSantis team aims to ‘curb’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at state universiti­es


Florida will be looking to “curb” diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the state’s colleges and universiti­es, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said Tuesday, offering a preview of what higher-education leaders can expect from lawmakers during the upcoming legislativ­e session.

Her statements, delivered at a state Board of Governors meeting at Florida Internatio­nal University in Miami-Dade County, marked the first time the DeSantis administra­tion has explained why its budget office this month requested a detailed accounting of how much colleges and universiti­es spend on such efforts.

“I can give you a few insights as to what we’re working on coming this session,” Nuñez said before mentioning a statement last week from the presidents of Florida’s 28 state colleges. It pledged to root out any policy or practice that “compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts.” The lieutenant governor then suggested that effort would soon extend to the state’s 12 universiti­es.

“I believe [the colleges are] looking at ways to curb those initiative­s, and I think we’ll look at ways to more broadly curb those initiative­s as well,” she said.

In a speech that praised the university system for its high rankings and relatively low student debt, Nuñez said “real forces” were “underminin­g the good work taking place” at the state schools.

“These new threats that are creeping and taking hold are things that we need to face,” she said. “I believe one of the biggest threats that’s infiltrati­ng our universiti­es is a permeating culture — one might call it woke culture, one might call it woke ideology, one might call it identity politics . ... We don’t need to get into all the names, but I do believe that some of these issues are taking hold. The policies they advocate are based on hate and based on


Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez


Nuñez also previewed proposals to review courses and give university presidents more control over faculty hiring.

“We want to further empower our presidents to make sure that they own the responsibi­lity of hiring individual­s to work in their campuses and make sure it stays in the hands of the leader of the institutio­n more so than in hidden hiring practices and faculty committees,” she said.

The legislativ­e session begins March 7.

In their responses to the governor’s budget office, the 12 public universiti­es said they collective­ly are spending about $34.5 million this year on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. About $20.7 million came from state funds.

The University of South Florida reported the highest expenses at $8.7 million, though only $2.5 million came from state funds.

Florida A&M University had the highest amount of state funds used at $4.1 million. The school’s expenses included a research center and museum for Black archives and its Center for Environmen­tal Equity and Justice, created by the Legislatur­e in 1998.

Shortly after those responses were submitted, the governor’s budget office sent out a second request requiring universiti­es to report details on any procedures and treatments that they had offered related to gender-affirming care since 2018. The request did not specify how the informatio­n would be used.

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