Florida legislation would ban mandatory DEI statements for campus hires, promote campus debates

Florida legislation would ban mandatory DEI statements for campus hires, promote campus debates
University of Florida

Republican legislators introduced two bills to prohibit mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion statements in campus hiring, and also to create offices at public colleges and universities foster debate and intellectual dialogue.

Opponents of mandatory diversity statements for hiring and tenure say they are political litmus tests and allow left-leaning hiring committees to reject conservative, libertarian and classically liberal applicants.

The bills, if enacted, would ban “public institutions of higher education from requiring the completion of a political loyalty test.” The identical bills, SB 958 and HB 931, also would require state colleges to “establish an Office of Public Policy Events.”

“That office would organize, publicize, and record for web-posting a series of debates, panel discussions, and individual lectures that explore competing sides of the most widely discussed public-policy controversies,” according to Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Imagine campus debates on abortion, immigration, crime, transgenderism, critical race theory, Ukraine policy, inflation, reparations, the role of government in health care, and any number of other controversial issues. Since these debates would take place outside of class, they would not interfere with professors’ academic freedom. Yet they would introduce points of view that are not typically represented on campus. Unlike a campus free-speech bill, which (rightly) is put in place to prevent infringements, this bill would have an immediately visible effect on the campus atmosphere.”

The bills follow Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s 2023 legislative proposal, which includes a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities as well as an expansion of classical education that teaches about Western Civilization.

A month ago, the presidents of the 28 colleges in the Florida College System unveiled a ban on anything that “compels belief in critical race theory.”

The presidents, in a January memo, stated they “will ensure that all initiatives, instruction, and activities do not promote any ideology that suppresses intellectual and academic freedom, freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning.”

Kurtz, who has long lobbied for lawmakers to pass legislation to protect free speech and guard against ideological bias on campus, says Florida is an ideal place for this legislation to be introduced. “There could hardly be a better venue to float bold higher-education reform than Florida’s legislature. Prospects for passage seem good. Each of the two key features of this bill would make for a major change in state institutions of higher education. If these reforms become law in Florida, we might swiftly see moves to expand them nationally. Stay tuned. Florida’s ambitious legislative agenda for campus reform begins to reveal itself. There is likely more to come.”

The bills were introduced by two Florida Republicans, state Representative Spencer Roach and state Senatory Keith Perry.

A similar bill was proposed in Arizona in 2020 but failed to pass after COVID shut down the Arizona statehouse. Now, Arizona’s newly-elected left-wing governor is likely to veto any such legislation even if it passes the Arizona legislature. Kurtz drafted the model campus intellectual diversity legislation that served as inspiration for both the Arizona bill and the Florida bills.

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


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