Judge: Florida not in violation of blocked “Stop Woke Act” by requesting funding info from colleges

Dissidents of the memo believe the state was enforcing a blocked bill that punished schools for teaching concepts about race, but the same judge responsible for its injunction does not believe it applies in this case.

A U.S. district judge does not find Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and company in violation of any law for requesting state colleges and universities to report funding directed to teaching race-related concepts and curriculum.

Chris Spencer, head of DeSantis’ Office of Policy and Budget, directed education commissioner Manny Diaz and state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues to report all operational expenses related to “diversity, equity, and inclusion, and critical race theory” in Florida’s state colleges and universities in order to create a budget proposal for the state’s next legislative session.

It did not take long until the memo drew fire. Dissidents who successfully repelled Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” on the grounds of viewpoint discrimination filed a motion to compel Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to block the governor’s office.

“We remain concerned that this directive from the Executive Office of the Governor is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the restrictions of the preliminary injunction by eliminating funding for valuable instruction on systemic racism and sexism,” said Leah Watson, senior staff attorney in the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU, the organization that represented the plaintiffs against the “Stop WOKE Act.”

House Bill 7, referred to as the “Stop WOKE Act,” which Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative-majority legislation view as a tool to fight discrimination, was geared to inhibit schools from advancing lectures that level guilt, anguish, or any form of psychological distress due to their race, color, sex, or national origin before it was blocked by judge Walker on account of its “positively dystopian” language and implications.

However, Judge Walker did not find the injunction applicable in this case. “Although this court would not hesitate to compel compliance with its preliminary injunction, this court finds there has been no violation of this injunction at this time,” he said.

More from UB: What is really being taught in a course on critical race theory?

The same day the judge made its decision, attorney Charles Cooper, representing the state, submitted a 13-page response against the plaintiff’s motion to compel, arguing that “gathering and transmitting information is not, in law or in common sense, the ‘enforcement’ of anything.”

Dr. Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, believes that there are more dangerous implications to the probe than what Spencer and Cooper are leading on.

“We understand judge Walker’s ruling that this memo does not enforce House Bill 7, though we still do see it as a larger attempt to cut the funding for DEI programs in the next legislative session.”

While Spencer’s memo was specifically interested in the total funding that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and activities were receiving for budgetary purposes, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner has submitted his own request from state schools that digs deeper. In addition, he has asked schools to submit all communication between faculty members—whether written or electronic—that pertains to DEI curriculum, planning, staff, and policies.

“We compromise higher education if we follow other states that allow DEI staff to act as political commissars over campus life,” stated Renner. “We intend to end this improper influence and re-focus on pathways to success for our graduates.”

Dr. Gothard, however, finds Renner’s attack on DEI “concerning and disturbing.” Many schools include veterans affairs, racial discrimination suits, and first-generation student initiatives within the DEI framework as well. Gothard believes that the state’s ideological pursuits are “out of touch” with faculty and students, driving them to enact legislation that hinders their ability to compete in a global economy.

“I find it baffling,” he said. “We may be speaking different languages on DEI.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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