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From: Adrienne Lu
Subject: Race on Campus: Florida's sweeping DEI law goes into effect this week
Welcome to Race on Campus. Florida’s new law, Senate Bill 266, took effect over the weekend. But I learned in reporting a story last week that many questions remain about how it will actually be carried out. Here are some key takeaways from my story. Has your campus been affected by the new law? I’d love to hear. My email is at the end of this story.
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Welcome to Race on Campus. Florida’s new law restricting diversity, equity, and inclusion programs took effect over the weekend. But I learned in reporting a story last week that many questions remain about how it will actually be carried out. Here are some key takeaways from my story. Has your campus been affected by the new law? I’d love to hear. My email is at the end of this story.
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Florida’s anti-DEI law takes effect
Florida’s Senate Bill 266, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that restricts efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, took effect on Saturday, but it will be some time before we really know what the impact is. I wrote a piece last week in which state officials acknowledged that rules and regulations to interpret the law are forthcoming, but they declined to provide a time frame. In the meantime, administrators at public institutions have told faculty and staff little or nothing about how their jobs might be affected, leaving some wondering whether their positions could be eliminated. Here are some key takeaways from my story:
What’s in the law
The law prohibits Florida’s public colleges from spending state or federal funds “to promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that … advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism as defined by the rules of the State Board of Education and regulations of the Board of Governors.” But exactly which programs or activities would be prohibited remains to be seen.
In addition to the prohibition on spending federal and state money on DEI, the law bans the use of diversity statements in admissions, hiring, and promotion, and it states that general-education courses “may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics … or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United states and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities,” among other provisions. The law also requires tenured professors to be evaluated every five years, enshrining a review process that was added by the state this spring.
The law spells out several exceptions to the ban on DEI spending, including for compliance with federal laws and for accreditation, with approval from the state (although it also prohibits accreditors from compelling colleges to violate state law). Also exempt from the ban on DEI spending are programs for veterans, Pell Grant recipients, first-generation college students, nontraditional students, certain transfer students from the state-college system, students from low-income families, and students with “unique abilities.” Student-led organizations using student fees are also exempt.
Many diversity programs and activities include work in these exempted categories, so it will take some effort to identify them and figure out how to draw the boundaries according to the new law.
What could be at risk
Back in December, Ron DeSantis, the state’s Republican governor, asked public colleges to submit details about their spending on diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory. That data can now be read as a starting point for banning DEI spending.
Some faculty and staff members have noted that even before the law took effect — and, in some cases, even before laws were passed — changes were already taking place in Florida and other states. For example, some professors said they have changed what they teach out of fear of drawing unwanted attention that could put their jobs or institutions at risk.
We’re curious to learn — have you observed any changes on your campus as a result of SB 266, or bills in other states that restrict DEI efforts? What programs and jobs have been affected? What have administrators relayed to faculty and staff about the new laws? How have these changes affected students? Please write to me at Adrienne.email@example.com. We won’t identify you unless you agree to it.
This week’s recommended-reading section is about about the highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision that found race-conscious admission unconstitutional.
- The court’s decision shows just how different the justices’ opinions are when it comes to the ideas of race and merit. Speaking of differences, here’s the rundown on the dissenting opinions. (The Chronicle)
- Texas lawmakers developed a plan in 1997 for public universities to admit any students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, in-part to help diversify classes after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit banned considering race as a factor in admissions for the three states in its jurisdiction. After last month’s Supreme Court ruling, other states could use Texas as a model for a race-neutral admissions plan. (The Texas Tribune)
- Our Eric Hoover explains the difference between affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. The cases decided last week are about the latter. (The Chronicle)
- The Supreme Court’s ruling on admissions applies to selective colleges. According to federal data, there are about 3,000 colleges in the United States and 68 of those institutions use selective admissions. That’s just 2 percent of institutions. (The Chronicle)
- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made one exception in his opinion on race-conscious admission. Military academies can continue the practice. “Race-based admissions programs further compelling interests at our nation’s military academies,” he wrote. (The Chronicle)
- Black and Hispanic college graduates whose education and lives were changed by race-conscious admissions spoke to The New York Times before the court’s decisions about the change. (The New York Times)