Florida – The Florida Board of Governors recently made significant changes to the state’s public universities by approving rules that limit diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and removing sociology from the general education core courses. These changes, part of Senate Bill 266, have sparked debate and protests among students and faculty.
Sweeping Educational Reforms
On January 24, the Board, primarily appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, enacted new rules as part of implementing Senate Bill 266. The board voted to remove the “Principles of Sociology” class from core social sciences requirements, a move that has raised concerns about the future of sociology programs in the state. Additionally, Regulation 9.016 was adopted, defining and thereby restricting the scope of DEI programs under the bill.
The newly defined terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion restrict programs, activities, or policies based on race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation that promote differential or preferential treatment. Board member and state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz commented on the theoretical nature of sociology, stating it has moved away from its scientific origins.
Following this, the Florida Board of Education unanimously voted to implement Gov. DeSantis’ anti-DEI rules across the entire Florida College System.
Student Protests and Opposition
The board’s decision was met with significant opposition from various student groups who protested outside the Student Union during the meeting. The protestors highlighted issues like housing and food insecurity among college students, arguing that the removal of sociology from core requirements distracts from these more pressing student concerns. They also emphasized the importance of diversity in education and society.
Among the protesting groups were Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Youth Action Fund (YAF), Florida Student Power, the FSU Environmental Service Program, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at FSU. Students from various universities participated, emphasizing the statewide impact of the board’s decisions.
Georgia Allen, the political chair of the Environmental Service Program at FSU, stressed the interconnection of the environment and society and the role diverse populations play in environmental protection.
Restrictions on Public Comment
During the board meeting, public comment was limited to 15 minutes regardless of the number of speakers, a restriction criticized by students like Matthew Grocholske and student activist Jack Petocz. Petocz vowed continued resistance, stating, “They can lock us out of their meeting rooms, but we will continue to stand out here with signs and fight like hell for our communities.”
The implementation of these new educational regulations marks a turning point in Florida’s higher education landscape, sparking a statewide discussion on academic freedom, diversity, and the role of higher education in addressing social issues.