Fla. Governor Asked All Public Universities for Spending Data on Diversity and Critical Race Theory

The governor’s office in Florida has asked all of the state’s public universities to detail their spending on programs related to diversity, equity, inclusion, or critical race theory.

The Chronicle first reported on Tuesday that one campus, the University of North Florida, had fielded such a request via Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. But a spokesperson for the system confirmed on Wednesday that the request had gone to each of the state’s 12 four-year, public campuses, and provided the memo from the office of Ron DeSantis, the governor, that seeks the information.

“As the Executive Office of the Governor prepares policy and budget proposals ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, it is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions,” the memo begins. Written by Chris Spencer, DeSantis’s director of policy and budget, and addressed to Rodrigues and Manny Diaz Jr., the state’s education commissioner, the memo adds that “state law requires dutiful attention to curriculum content at our higher-education systems.”

The memo refers the universities to an attached blank table with columns for each relevant program or activity held on campus, the number of employees working on each program, those employees’ titles, the program’s overall funding, and the amount of that funding that comes from the state.

Rodrigues passed along the memo to campus presidents in a December 29 email, asking that they return the information by January 10. He included a caveat in his email: Universities should list only required classes, not electives.

Neither the memo nor Rodrigues’s email specify precisely what the information will be used for. A spokesperson for the system didn’t answer questions about the system’s plans and goals for the gathered data, nor how institutions should identify how much funding for specific programs comes from the state, versus the federal government, donations, tuition, or other sources.

In previous speeches and public stances, DeSantis has made clear his opposition to critical race theory. “We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” DeSantis said in a speech on Tuesday. In a handful of other states, Republican lawmakers have taken aim at diversity efforts and teaching about institutional racism in college classrooms, including requesting information about curricula and introducing a bill that would ban public colleges from funding diversity offices.

Early last year, DeSantis signed the state’s Individual Freedom Act, also known as the “Stop WOKE” Act, which bars public-college professors from teaching certain concepts related to sex and race. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the university system from enforcing the law.

DeSantis’s office referred questions about the information request to the Florida Department of Education, which didn’t answer a request for comment.

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