It’s hard to not to see UF these days as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political playground.
Unfortunately, his actions have led to sudden, apparent reactions that could lead to serious consequences for the UF community.
Two DeSantis administration memos have placed these concerns front and center as member schools of the state university system seek a path forward.
Most recently, UF told The Alligator it was complying with a mandated state audit of gender-affirming health care — collecting data concerning students receiving “hormones” and “sex-reassignment treatment.”
UF also released an audit of critical race theory and diversity initiatives this month, per a December memo that demanded all organizations and classes involving “diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory” be categorized and described by budget to the Executive Office of the Governor Office of Policy and Budget.
A coalition of the presidents of Florida’s 28 public colleges — including Santa Fe College’s Paul Broadie II — also weighed in, writing a letter rejecting an educational framework that “compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”
The college presidents have decided to pander to the governor rather than show the necessary respect due to their faculty, students and staff. DeSantis is attempting to turn higher education in Florida into political theater, prioritizing his own national profile as a culture warrior over the needs of students and Floridians in general.
At UF, the effects of these audits are still unknown, as the university refuses to speculate on what the collected data will be used for and the Florida Board of Governors fails to provide a clear explanation to our reporters.
The Alligator’s Editorial Board is concerned about the lack of explanation behind both requests and how they may affect the livelihood of the community we serve. We believe in transparency and will continue to hold these agencies accountable.
Abstaining from speculation, it still is our job to ask why the information is requested. Though not out of left field from a state that has launched a war on “woke, leftist liberalism,” some worry tangible effects could materialize from the audits.
Even before the two most recent memos, the DeSantis effect has already been apparent throughout his tenure as governor.
Last July, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act were put in place. These bills represent a far-right DeSantis movement that other red states have begun to emulate. The legislation remains highly contested in the public eye and continues to display significance on a level beyond primary institutions.
Specifically, the implementation of the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act'' has already shown its impact. With their livelihoods liable to what “indoctrination” means to right-wing politicians, professors in Florida are forced to carry on every day with low morale and fear of retaliation for promoting diversity of thought.
Ironically, it’s those right-wing politicians who most speak in favor of free speech and open discourse at “leftist college campuses,” while trying to shut down any conversations that either upset or confuse them.
Much is uncertain right now in Florida’s public education system, in both secondary and post-secondary schools.
We won’t stop reporting on the issues that matter, but it’s on the UF community to pay attention.
The Editorial Board is made up of Editor-in-Chief Alan Halaly, Engagement Managing Editor Veronica Nocera, Digital Managing Editor Aurora Martínez and Opinions Editor Selin Ciltas.