Florida’s Gov. DeSantis Declares Financial War on ‘Woke’ Universities in State

Florida’s Gov. DeSantis Declares Financial War on ‘Woke’ Universities in State
On a campaign stop in rural North Florida on Nov. 3, 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, scorns left-wing ideology, saying "Florida is where 'woke' goes to die." (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
1/31/2023
Updated:
2/1/2023
0:00

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threw down the gauntlet on fixing higher education on Jan. 31, vowing to eliminate all funding for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), and Critical Race Theory (CRT) throughout the state.

Public universities should not be in the business of using taxpayer money to offer degrees in “zombie” studies but should embrace academic excellence and truth, and allow students to think for themselves, DeSantis said.

“Our institutions will be graduating students with degrees that will actually be useful,” he said. “We will be eliminating all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in Florida. It will wither on the vine.”

DeSantis offered a series of legislative proposals to flush political ideologies out of universities, including allowing university presidents and the university board of trustees to hold a post-tenure review on professors as needed.

He also wants to shift hiring authority to the university president that had been ceded to faculty.

A statue of Karl Marx is seen in the building of the Corvinus University in Budapest on Sept. 4, 2014. The 'Corvinus' was renamed in 1953 as Karl Marx University and it was a base of the country's Marxist intellectual elite in the socialist era. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)
A statue of Karl Marx is seen in the building of the Corvinus University in Budapest on Sept. 4, 2014. The 'Corvinus' was renamed in 1953 as Karl Marx University and it was a base of the country's Marxist intellectual elite in the socialist era. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

DeSantis says he wants to ban the campus hiring committees’ use of DEI oaths that certify candidates will adhere to ideologies. One of them is Critical Race Theory—a Marxist ideology that divides people into oppressors and victims based on race or gender.

Currently, candidates who reject social justice ideology and embrace the belief of equality and a color-blind society get points deducted during the hiring process designed to weed out those who disagree, he said.

DeSantis said DEI bureaucracies had become a component of the administration within universities that are imposing a political agenda and ideologies such as implicit bias, which embraces the idea that America is systemically racist.

“These bureaucracies are hostile to academic freedom, and really they constitute a drain on resources,” he said.

DeSantis said he rejects the dominant view in academia around the country that higher education should impose ideological conformity to provoke political activism.

He proposed that higher education curriculums should require a course on the history and philosophy of Western Civilization.

The governor said that DEI bureaucracies have “metastasized,” adding they mandate training on political ideology. He pointed out that the state’s Stop Woke Act passed last year gives employees, particularly of private businesses, the right to opt out of CRT or DEI training.

He praised the Florida College System (FCS) presidents who on  Jan. 18 publicly supported his vision of higher education as one free from indoctrination and open to truth and intellectual freedom. FCS is made up of community colleges and state colleges.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Stop Woke Bill in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on April 22, 2022. (The Florida Channel/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Stop Woke Bill in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on April 22, 2022. (The Florida Channel/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The Stop Woke Act is currently being challenged in the court system, but DeSantis said he is confident the law will survive.

The act addresses “wokeness” to historic injustices surrounding race or gender that may have created a false sense of guilt among those who were not responsible for them, such as the idea of systemic racism.

It outlaws “indoctrination” practices in education or the workplace that label people as inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, based on their skin color, sex, or national origin, consciously or unconsciously.

The law allows the state university system’s Board of Governors to require tenured professors to undergo a “comprehensive post-tenure” review every five years.

DeSantis’ announcement is his latest assault on the “woke” ideology that he says is running rampant on college campuses in Florida and elsewhere.

​​The governor also mandated that public universities report their expenditures for CRT and DEI programs.

The Dec. 28 order from DeSantis came four days after The Epoch Times documented the experiences of six conservative students attending a major Florida university.

They described difficulties in seeking an education in what they described as an anti-white, anti-Christian, and anti-American culture.

A Florida university student, who asked to be identified only as Mia, sits with her study Bible at home on Christmas break on Dec. 22, 2022. Expressing Christian views on campus draws scorn from professors, who openly talk about their "hate for Christians," she told The Epoch Times. (Courtesy of Mia)
A Florida university student, who asked to be identified only as Mia, sits with her study Bible at home on Christmas break on Dec. 22, 2022. Expressing Christian views on campus draws scorn from professors, who openly talk about their "hate for Christians," she told The Epoch Times. (Courtesy of Mia)

At the DeSantis press conference, a conservative University of Florida student described experiences of being attacked for her beliefs that mirrored what students have told The Epoch Times.

“My university has fallen corrupt to the woke ideal that is being taught by leftist professors in the classroom,” said Emily Sturge, a sophomore at UF.

She said professors tell her that America is the most racist nation and that women have no rights. She said that professors lecture on the importance of the Covid vaccine instead of teaching content.

Sturge said she received a failing grade for writing a paper on how empowering it was for women to get their concealed carry licenses. But when she tactically wrote about the virtues of Marxism, she got an A.

Sturge said she had a “target on her back” for being a pro-American Christian and had been called “every name in the book” by fellow students.

In January, DeSantis again struck a blow to “woke” culture in the university system by appointing six conservatives to the board of trustees for the failing New College.

These included Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute fellow who has exposed CRT in schools nationwide.

Rufo, who also spoke at the press conference, talked about how the Left was manipulating public perception by using terms such as DEI, which sounds great on the surface but is a dark concept.

“It is an Orwellian misuse of language that manipulates you into feeling that this is a good thing while under the surface. It’s something quite different,” he said.

Rufo said DEI is the same thing as CRT, which divides the world into oppressors and oppressed. Professors train students, faculty, and staff members that certain people are oppressors and others are oppressed.

He said the entire board of New College was scheduled to meet after the press conference. He and trustee Eddie Speir, who toured New College last week, was met with resistance from students and faculty.

Christopher Rufo, filmmaker, policy researcher, and writer. (Courtesy of Christopher Rufo)
Christopher Rufo, filmmaker, policy researcher, and writer. (Courtesy of Christopher Rufo)

Speir wrote in a blog post on Jan. 29 that he wanted to fire all faculty staff and administration and immediately rehire those that fit in with “the new ”financial and business model.”

Rufo wrote in a Jan. 12 City Journal article that he hoped to build a classical curriculum at New College, which included abolishing DEI and replacing them with “equality, merit, and colorblindness” principles.

Ray Rodriguez, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, commented at the press conference that Florida would reject requiring DEI pledges.

He said university systems in California and Illinois had pioneered that requirement, which is wrong.

“It is a political litmus test of ideology so that they only bring in those who fit whatever the dominant ideology is on those campuses,” he said.

UPDATE: This article has been updated for brevity.
Darlene McCormick Sanchez reports for The Epoch Times from Texas. She writes on a variety of issues with a focus on Texas politics, election fraud, and the erosion of traditional values. She previously worked as an investigative reporter and covered crime, courts, and government for newspapers in Texas, Florida, and Connecticut. Her work on The Sinful Messiah series, which exposed Branch Davidians leader David Koresh, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting in the 1990s.