OPINION | House Bill 999 enables censorship

Doxey Kamara, Intersections Editor

(Cole Farrah)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives at Florida college campuses may lose state and federal funding due to Florida House Bill 999. The bill, recently advanced by the Florida House of Representatives, aims to ban government funding of DEI programs at state colleges and universities in Florida, as well as prohibit the study of critical race theory — which has been met with protest from Florida students and educators.

Beyond the students, faculty and staff of Florida’s public institutions, groups such as the American History Association have expressed horror at the bill’s “blatant and frontal attack on principles of academic freedom,” warning that implementing this legislation would “have dire implications for all instructors, even faculty best protected by traditional norms of governance and procedure.”

If this bill passes, the American History Association notes, sweeping language gives the political appointees the ability to determine what general education core courses “suppress or distort significant historical events.”

Outside of the classroom, the House committee reviewing the bill rejected an amendment to offer protections for Black fraternities and sororities, as well as minority unions and multicultural centers. In its current state, the bill states that universities cannot include curriculum based on or utilizing methodology associated with critical race theory.

DeSantis’s staff describes the bill as an effort to “stand up against discrimination and woke indoctrination,” and DeSantis himself claimed that there is “no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”

If the bill passes, educational institutions in Florida will be expected to remove critical race theory and studies, as well as curriculums concerning Critical Ethnic Studies, “Radical Feminist Theory” and intersectionality. Universities offering majors or minors tied to these topics will be expected to drop them. According to the bill, these courses are “based on unproven, disproven, theoretical or exploratory content.”

As one of the first bills to target institutions for higher education, the bill stands to set a precedent. If the state has the power to determine what students may learn in an institution, and can deem certain fields of study unacceptable, HB 999 — allegedly crafted to fight indoctrination — may end up furthering it.

Genesis Robinson, political director of Equal Ground, claims that the bill censors what adult students are allowed to learn. “It’s about censorship, it is about big government dictating who we love, what we learn, what pronouns we can use, and what books our children read.”

For Florida, the bill could cause a brain drain in the state. Faculty and students could seek employment and education elsewhere, particularly as Florida’s public institutions could lose accreditation status after House Bill 999’s passing. This could put federal student aid — something 83% of college students receive in some form — in danger, making institutions much less appealing.

The bill’s banning of multiple discussion topics, using terms which remain largely undefined in the bill’s text, constitutes nothing less than censorship. The ambiguity gives authorities room to maneuver and block discussion and education regarding topics that the government finds unsavory — and given that history is inseparable from discussion of sex and race, the bill could rob universities of their status as a place for open intellectual discourse.

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