USC students condemn war on DEI

Students comment on the prohibition of teaching inclusive topics by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an initiative that would prohibit programs from teaching diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT) at state colleges and universities on Tuesday.

In his attempt at “higher education reform,” DeSantis said in a news conference that DEI and CRT programs would get “no funding” and “will wither on the vine.”

Reacting to the news, USC students worried about the lasting repercussions legislation like this will have on students from the minority communities. “As a minority myself, I know I wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable in a state if that were to happen to me,” said Halla Ibrahim, a sophomore majoring in biological science.

DeSantis is not alone in his push to restrict the teachings of DEI and CRT. At least 44 states “have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism” since January 2021, according to an Education Week analysis. Eighteen states have enacted these bans and restrictions.

Tennessee, one of those states, passed its Prohibited Concepts In Instruction law in May 2021.

“The Tennessee law does indeed have a big impact on how I can plan to teach with honesty and integrity,” said Memphis, Tennessee history teacher Mary McIntosh to Time Magazine.

“I think it kind of goes against everything the U.S. is built upon, because the U.S. is basically made up of a bunch of people from all over the world. It’s a melting pot,” said Kelly Ash, a sophomore majoring in astronautical engineering. Red states are making a trend of banning topics conservatives don’t like, Ash said. To her, this feels restrictive.

DeSantis’s plans came after he recently blocked the College Board’s new Advanced Placement course, African American Studies. He claimed the curriculum violated Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“It’s entirely neglecting to think about racism in the present day, because that would require you to look at issues like Black Lives Matter, reparations, intersectionality and intersectional oppressions … I think ignoring the present-day scholars who think about race and racism treats racism as if it no longer exists,” said Suneal Kolluri, a UC Riverside urban education policy professor.

The College Board came under fire for removing many Black scholars related to CRT, queer studies and Black feminism in their revision of the curriculum.

“It’s really troubling to me that they decided to remove those topics. And the College Board is claiming that, you know, they didn’t do it for political reasons,” Kolluri said. “They did it because they were just revising the curriculum anyway. But it is fishy that they took out the precise topics that DeSantis claimed were an issue.”

Last year, DeSantis signed into law the Individual Freedom Act, commonly referred to as the “Stop WOKE Act.” The act amended the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 by specifying that “subjecting any individual” to believe certain DEI and CRT concepts “constitutes an unlawful employment practice or unlawful discrimination.”

DeSantis, who was re-elected in November 2022, is expected to make a bid for the White House in the 2024 election.