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Gov. DeSantis Reins in Radical DEI, Follows Goldwater’s Lead

May 15, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis today signed a major new law to end the radical, racist political ideologies that are crippling public higher education. The new law (HB 931), modeled on a nation-leading reform created by the Goldwater Institute, is a prohibition against the use of political litmus tests for hiring and promotions—the so-called “diversity statements” that many universities require on job applications to screen out insufficiently progressive candidates.

It’s no secret that the professorial class of all major universities is highly skewed leftward, but mandatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) statements serve to further exclude anyone unwilling to adopt and comply with whatever progressive tenets are currently in vogue. As Gov. DeSantis declared after HB 931 passed the Florida Legislature, “The idea that you would have to take some type of … diversity oath…that is imposing ideology as a condition of being hired.”

“What this does is reorient our universities back to their traditional mission and part of that traditional mission is to treat people as individuals, not to try to divvy them up based on any type of superficial characteristics,” Gov. DeSantis added today at a signing ceremony. “We’re going to elevate merit and achievement above identification with certain groups.”

Not only do mandatory DEI statements seriously infringe upon academic freedom, but they also violate the First Amendment when used as hiring criteria at public universities. Yet they’re increasingly prevalent: a recent Goldwater Institute policy report, for instance, revealed that up to 80% of faculty job postings at Arizona’s public universities demand that applicants pledge allegiance to the DEI regime. That’s why Goldwater is championing our landmark reform, developed in partnership with the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Stanley Kurtz and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, to stop public colleges and universities from using diversity statements as a condition of hiring.

This reform—which Florida’s law is based on—complements a suite of related Goldwater efforts. Earlier this year, the Institute partnered with Speech First to release the “Freedom from Indoctrination Act” to ensure students learn useful civic knowledge in their general education courses and keep them from being forced into activist-driven programs of social conditioning. Likewise, a joint initiative of the Manhattan and Goldwater Institutes to abolish DEI bureaucracies has shaped legislation advancing in the Texas legislature and elsewhere.

DEI administrations within public universities are often responsible for the worst excesses of campus illiberalism. (The DEI administrator at Stanford Law school helping shout down a federal judge who was invited to speak comes to mind as a recent example). What’s more, they make tuition more expensive by contributing to the well-documented problem of administrative bloat. Goldwater’s reforms aim to dismantle DEI bureaucracies in favor of a higher education system that reflects the values of the people it serves and shapes students into responsible and thoughtful citizens.

It is heartening to see conservatives take higher education reform seriously. Florida’s effort to save its universities from Critical Race Theory (CRT)- and DEI-fueled madness and to revitalize constitutionally grounded civics education deserves recognition—as well as a bit of replication across the country. While Florida’s new diversity statement legislation does not incorporate some of the additional refinements proposed by the Goldwater and Manhattan Institutes, it represents a clear repudiation of the toxic impact of DEI statements in higher education. Further, if Florida’s reform takes hold and helps truly turn back the tide of progressivism run amok, it will serve as of a building block for other states to follow so that all American college students can get the education they deserve.



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