Students at public colleges and universities in the state of Florida are continuing to challenge the educational agenda pushed by the state’s GOP Governor Ron DeSantis.
This agenda is wide-ranging. From the earlier legislative initiative he signed that dramatically limited how sexual orientation and gender identity could be discussed in classrooms to another piece of legislation he supported that stood to limit how basic concepts like white privilege could be taught, even in workplaces, the Florida governor’s self-righteous crusade has continued. That includes the majority newly held on the board of trustees for the New College of Florida by picks from the controversial governor, who remains the subject of speculation over a possible campaign for president. His board members already helped secure the firing of that college’s president, who was replaced by a Republican who was formerly Speaker in the state House. The college itself is known as harboring a generally liberal culture, making the targeting seem clear.
After walkouts staged across the state last week by college and university students, enrolees at New College are planning additional protests for the coming days. According to details on an Instagram account identified as belonging to New College of Florida Students for Educational Freedom, a protest is planned for Tuesday, and in commentary posted by that account, organizers directed some of their ire towards DeSantis’s initiatives at the state level as well. That list includes a bill, the text of which was recently made available, that if enacted would ban majors — and minors! — in gender studies, intersectionality, and critical race theory from public colleges and universities in Florida. The bill would also block schools in the public post-secondary system from using any of their money in support of initiatives in critical race theory or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as it’s known.
For The New Yorker, a student involved in protests at the college addressed the trustees’ recent decision to force the now former college president out of the job. “It was very illustrative of their intentions, because with Dr. Okker you had someone who was a career educator,” Alex Obraud said. “I didn’t agree with her about everything, but she was in it for the right reasons, and she was smart and effective. Getting rid of her summarily to pay more than twice as much money to a career politician who is coming in with an agenda — that’s not someone who’s in it for the students.” Students at the college were among those who participated in the recent walkouts. Others who joined included attendees of Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and Florida State University, the last of which is in Tallahassee, which is the capital and also houses landmarks like the governor’s mansion.
Thank you @FIU students for your courage standing up to @GovRonDeSantis attacks on education & his MAGA Legislature. I stand with you and all the students across our state who deserve freedom of thought and speech in our nation. This is after all the United States of America. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/2gBsoNywqH
— Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (@DebbieforFL) February 24, 2023