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How DeSantis’ New Bill Could Impact FIU Students

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FIU chapter.

In what could be seen as something out of a dystopian novel, Gov. Ron DeSantis has created HB 999, a new bill that requires education courses at state colleges and universities to “promote the values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic” and prohibits courses with a “curriculum based on unproven, theoretical or exploratory content.” As a far-right Republican leader, it’s not surprising that DeSantis has drafted and promoted this bill to ban programs promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion—otherwise known as DEI programs. Part of this discriminatory bill would also allow the governor to put all hiring decisions of administrators and professors into the hands of a Board of Trustees that DeSantis selects himself. While the bill was first introduced on February 25 and has yet to become a law, colleges across the state have already started to see the effects of this totalitarian mandate. 

An example of these results is the case of Eastern Florida State College, where Professor Josh Humphries had to cancel his class on civil rights after a student felt “uncomfortable” about the day’s lesson. About 20 students were allowed a free period the exception of Jacob Dailey, who was disappointed to miss class since it was on his “schedule and required for his degree.” These feelings have trickled down into middle and high schools: a principal in Leon County, Florida has resigned after parents complained that their sixth grade students were being shown “pornographic material.” The material in question was a photo of Michelangelo’s statue of David and was shown during an art lesson on the Renaissance. The principal, Hope Carrasquilla, was not given a reason as to why parents wanted her to resign, but believes the photo played a major role in their reactions. These two events are among the many that are sure to come out following DeSantis’ bill as public schools, colleges, and universities continue teaching required materials in anticipation of the state’s decision.

But HB999 is nothing new to Floridians. On April 22, 2022, DeSantis signed into state law the Stop Wrongs To Our Kids and Employees Act (which would come to be known as the Stop W.O.K.E. Act) that would regulate the content, instruction, and training in schools and workplaces. The bill was intended by DeSantis to fight against “woke indoctrination” and critical race theory. Although provisions of the Stop W.O.K.E. Act were previously overruled in November through Pernell v. Florida Board of Governors, the future of DeSantis’ HB 999 remains uncertain. More importantly, how does this affect us at FIU? By eradicating courses that promote DEI programs, the bill subsequently seeks to eliminate declared majors that include Women and Gender Studies, Africa and African Diaspora Studies, Anthropology/Sociology, and other humanities career paths. I am among many students lucky enough to go to a university that is known for its diverse student population: one that allows us to express ourselves inside and outside the classroom. When bills like these are created, they not only limit how we build our education but also create dangerous environments for students that may identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, or disabled. Information and accessibility to these “dangerous” topics are ubiquitous online anyways, making these bills nothing more than a fear tactic used to limit our voices.

In learning about this bill, FIU students have come together to organize a free FIU walkout on April 13th at 12 PM. They will meet on the lawn at Graham Center. If you’re interested in joining, be sure to check out the flier here.

Kayla Melendez is a senior studying English Literature at FIU. Upon graduation, she hopes to teach secondary education or obtain a freelance position writing about topics like books, films, tv shows, and all things pop culture. If she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or updating her Letterboxd account.