Florida Looks to Ban Universities From Using Public Funds to Support Social Activism

Evan Poellinger | October 25, 2023
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The state of Florida is looking to implement legislation that would prohibit its universities from using public funds to “advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion” or “promote or engage in political or social activism.”

The proposed piece of legislation, as reported by AL.com, defines activism in detail, stating that it is, “any activity organized with a purpose of effecting or preventing change to a government policy, action, or function, or any activity intended to achieve a desired result related to social issues, where the university endorses or promotes a position in communications, advertisements, programs, or campus activities.”

Naturally, this legislation has already sparked outcry among university faculty and associates, with University of South Florida general counsel Gerlad Solis calling it “overbroad.” While the activities which could fall under the definition of political and social activism within the regulation are relatively broad, it does make specific exceptions for student organizations, school lobbying, and areas set aside in order to accommodate requirements for federal funding and accreditation. Instead, the regulation is targeted toward cracking down on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ideology at Florida’s public universities.

The regulation appears to be part of a larger trend of state legislators taking matters into their own hands to combat the promotion of DEI by state-funded universities.

Last week, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) withheld pay raises from staff at University of Wisconsin system schools after the school refused to abolish 188 DEI-related positions. Additionally, the state of Arizona passed a statute in 2022 which prohibited state schools from using public funds for DEI-oriented training. Subsequent attempts by Arizona State University to bypass or ignore the legislation have been brought to light by the Goldwater Institute.

Red states appear to be realizing that, even in hives of entrenched DEI ideology like public universities, it is well within their power to limit or otherwise handicap its promulgation.