Echoing Orban, House Bill 999 bars Florida’s public colleges and universities from offering gender studies majors or minors, as well as majors or minors in critical race theory or “intersectionality,” or in any subject that “engenders beliefs” in those concepts. The bill prohibits the promotion or support of any campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory rhetoric.” This goes far beyond simply ending D.E.I. programming, and could make many campus speakers, as well as student organizations like Black student unions, verboten.
There’s more. Under House Bill 999, general education core courses couldn’t present a view of American history “contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence,” creating obvious limits on the teaching of subjects like slavery and the Native American genocide. The bill also says that general education courses shouldn’t be based on “unproven, theoretical or exploratory content,” without defining what that means. “State officials would have unfettered discretion to determine which views are ‘theoretical’ and banned from general education courses,” says a statement by the libertarian-leaning Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Finally, the bill centralizes political control over hiring by allowing faculty to be cut out of the process. Right now, some boards of trustees have the power to veto hiring recommendations made by faculty and administrators, though Young says they rarely use it. Under House Bill 999, rather than an up-or-down vote on candidates vetted by university bodies, trustees could just hire whomever they want. “They don’t even have to hire someone who applied through the regular process,” said Young. “They can just say, ‘Here’s my friend Joe, he’s going to be the new history professor.’”
This would give DeSantis’s cronies enormous power over who can teach in Florida’s colleges and universities. Last month, I wrote about the governor’s campaign to transform the New College of Florida, a progressive public institution, into a bastion of conservatism. At the time, some faculty members suspected that DeSantis’s new trustees might find their grandiose plans stymied by bureaucratic obstacles. Young believes that House Bill 999 would sweep many of those obstacles away.
The bill, of course, is only one part of DeSantis’s culture war. His administration has already limited what can be taught to K-12 students about race, sex and gender. (Some teachers removed all books from their classroom shelves while they waited for them to be reviewed for forbidden content.) When Disney spoke out against one of DeSantis’s education measures, the governor punished the corporation. And he is pushing legislation taking aim at the news media by making it easier for people — especially those accused of racial or gender discrimination — to sue for defamation.