The newest version of House Bill 999 may elicit a sigh of relief from UF’s department of gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Under the March 15 version, UF’s women’s studies major and minor seems to no longer be at risk of elimination, Provost Joe Glover said at a Faculty Senate meeting March 23.
The Florida Legislature has made significant edits to the sweeping higher education reform bill between its original filing Feb. 21 and its most recent update March 15 — notably concerning majors and minors that will be removed if the bill becomes law.
The UF Foundation, the fundraising and gift management arm of UF, contracted lobbyists on HB 999 and its counterpart, Senate Bill 266, according to state lobbying records.
UF spokesperson Steve Orlando didn’t specify the nature of the lobbying but said the lobbyists are working in the best interest of the university.
While the original bill prohibited degree programs related to critical race theory, gender studies and intersectionality, the newer version replaces that language by prohibiting critical theory outright.
Critical theory refers to examining social movements and systems of oppression, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Some banned critical theory programs include critical race studies, radical feminist theory and queer theory, according to the bill.
Glover referred to the change as an improvement during the March 23 Faculty Senate meeting — a statement followed by laughter in the chamber.
“I think we are making some progress here, and we'll continue to make progress,” he said.
Diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the university remain targeted by HB 999.
State or federal money granted to the university can’t be spent on programs that promote DEI or engage in social or political activism if the bill passes. Programs that show preferential treatment based on race, gender or other identifiers are also prohibited.
Diversity statements used in hiring or applications, including student admissions, are prohibited in the most recent version — whereas the original version only included faculty and staff applications.
While both versions of HB 999 allow a university’s Board of Trustees to review tenured professors’ performance at any time, the most recent specifies parameters and gives examples of reasons for the review, like negligence, insubordination and violation of the law.
Other changes since the bill’s filing assure that students receiving fee waivers will continue to receive them until graduation, regardless of whether their program was discontinued after enrollment. It also includes more specific guidelines for general education courses.
Though SB 266 contains similar provisions to HB 999, in its current form, it adds that UF will open the Hamilton College to offer degree programs in the history of Western civilization and civics. Currently known as Hamilton Center, the college is part of a conservative push to teach classical American history.
As HB 999 and SB 266 make their way through committee, there is a possibility that a final bill text will be passed to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
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Alissa Gary is a journalism freshman and university administration reporter at The Alligator. Aside from writing, she loves spending time with her cats, catching up on Jeopardy, and seeing the latest movies.