A Florida University Is Quickly Assembling a List of Courses on Diversity. Why? DeSantis Asked.
THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
January 3, 2023
At least one Florida university has been asked to report its “expenditure of state resources” on programs and courses related to critical race theory and to diversity, equity, and inclusion, at the behest of Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle. The move is likely to heighten fears among advocates of academic freedom in the state who worry that DeSantis is bent on curtailing professors’ speech in the classroom.
On December 29, Karen S. Cousins, the associate vice president of strategy and implementation in the provost’s office at the University of North Florida, emailed UNF deans with the subject line: “URGENT / New requirement from the Governor.” That same day, Cousins wrote, Moez Limayem, UNF’s president, had received an email from Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. Rodrigues’s email included a memo from DeSantis’s executive office along with an “activity survey form.”
Cousins seemed to quote from the memo, writing that it is “a request for information ‘regarding the expenditure of state resources on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory within our state colleges and universities.’
The request pertains to all programs and initiatives, including ‘academic instruction.’”
Cousins requested that the deans communicate with their associate deans and department chairs to identify the courses within their colleges that “contain DEI and/or CRT components.” She instructed them to include the course name and number, the number of credit hours, and the instructor of record and that person’s rank, along with other information. (She noted that the instructor’s name would not be included on the survey form.)
“We’re truly sorry to share this with you during Winter Break,” Cousins wrote. “However, as you know, UNF’s timely compliance is not optional.” UNF’s deadline to provide this information to the chancellor is January 10, she wrote.
Neither Cousins nor spokespersons at the University of North Florida responded to Tuesday evening emails from The Chronicle.
DeSantis’s memo comes at a politically tense time in Florida higher ed, as many professors view the governor as a hostile figure who is invested in restricting their ability to teach freely. Like other Republican politicians, DeSantis has railed against critical race theory, which he has called “crap,” and against supposed leftist indoctrination in education. He championed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which aims to restrict how certain topics related to race can be taught. He branded the legislation in the news release as the strongest of its kind in the nation and said, “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other.” (A federal judge in November blocked the public college system from enforcing the law.)