By Julian Roberts-Grmela
March 3, 2023
Faculty members in Florida are worried that their departments and academic freedom are at risk after lawmakers in the state proposed banning majors and minors in “Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative major or minor of these belief systems.”
House Bill 999, a 23-page piece of legislation before Florida’s state legislature, follows the lead of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, in targeting what’s taught in higher education and how academe operates. If passed, the bill would prohibit public colleges from funding any projects that “espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.” It would also give boards of trustees unprecedented power over faculty hiring, tenure review, and rewriting university mission statements; ban general-education courses that teach “identity politics” or define American history “as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence”; and ban academic programs in gender studies, critical race theory, and intersectionality.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Robert Alexander Andrade, a Republican, is early in the legislative process and may be amended before being voted on. The legislative session starts on March 7.
“Conservative voters, Floridians, have been telling us for years that college campuses have been far too focused on political indoctrination and not enough focus has been given towards preparing these students for the real world,” Andrade said in an interview with WEAR ABC 3, a local television news station. He did not respond to The Chronicle’s request for comment.
The bill’s proposed ban on majors and minors has Florida faculty members worried about what could happen to their programs, jobs, and students if the bill passes. Most public universities in Florida offer majors or minors in gender studies, so those programs would likely be on the chopping block if the bill were to be enacted.
Critical race theory is an academic concept, rooted in legal scholarship, whose primary tenets are that race is a social construct and that systemic racism exists. Intersectionality is a theory that states people are complex, with different identities that overlap and intersect, often through complicated power dynamics.
Although there aren’t many majors or minors that go by those names, many academic disciplines discuss those topics in the classroom. Faculty members across disciplines are worried their programs could be targeted as well.