A group of Florida college professors on Wednesday asked a federal judge to block Gov. Ron DeSantis from requesting spending data on diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory programs in state universities.
The filing comes as part of a lawsuit against the so-called “Stop WOKE” Act, which restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in colleges. Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Mark Walker has blocked the law, though DeSantis’ office is appealing the decision.
The Republican governor in late December requested that state colleges submit spending data and other information on programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory, which examines systemic racism. The schools were asked to submit the data by Friday.
The college educators, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Defense Fund, argue the governor’s request violates the court order blocking the “Stop WOKE” Act.
“This is just another step towards enforcing this unconstitutional law and is clearly intended to continue to chill the speech of instructors and students in Florida. We cannot allow these threats against free speech to continue,” Jerry Edwards, staff attorney of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The law prohibits teaching or business practices that contend members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others. It also bars the notion that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.
The governor began pushing for the law late last year, and the Republican-controlled Legislature passed it during the 2022 legislative session.
Critical race theory was developed during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
Conservatives have rejected critical race theory, arguing the philosophy racially divides American society and aims to rewrite history to make white people believe they are inherently racist.