A group of students and professors at New College of Florida are suing the university’s trustees, interim president, and Florida education officials to stop the implementation of a new law prohibiting colleges from incorporating Marxist ideology into classroom curriculum.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Monday, the lawsuit brought by NCF Freedom Inc. and New College students and professors claims that SB 266 — which was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May — violates the First Amendment “because it favors and permits speech which opposes ideas such as diversity, equity and inclusion and social activism, etc. but disfavors and censors speech which promotes those ideas.”
Under SB 266, Florida universities are prohibited from teaching curriculum that “is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.” The law furthermore bars state colleges from using federal or state taxpayer money to fund so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI, programs.
For context, DEI is a divisive and poisonous ideology that dismisses merit and instead discriminates based on characteristics such as skin color and sexual orientation. Individuals who qualify for a certain position due to their merits but don’t meet the discriminating entity’s goal of being more “diverse” are passed over in favor of those who meet institutionally preferred identitarian standards.
Also listed as defendants in the suit are Manny Diaz Jr., the commissioner of the Florida State Board of Education, and the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System (of which Diaz is also a member).
In its lawsuit, NCF Freedom Inc. claims a “host of [New College] programs, majors, courses, and textbooks/assignments” would likely be prohibited or “chilled” under SB 266, including courses such as “Queer History: Sexuality in the 20th Century United States,” “Queer Studies,” and “Race, Gender and Sexuality.” The plaintiffs further contend the school’s “hard sciences” could be affected, noting how “New College’s Biology major includes a class on ‘Sex, Gender, Mind and Brain.'”
While a historically left-wing institution, New College of Florida received a shakeup in leadership earlier this year after DeSantis appointed “enough new trustees to give the 13-member board a conservative majority.” Among the six new appointees was Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute best known for his role in exposing the prevalence of critical race theory in U.S. public education.
Since assuming office, the new conservative majority has taken a series of actions designed to make New College the “Hillsdale of the South.” In February, the board replaced then-President Patricia Okker with Richard Corcoran, a former Florida House speaker and Republican. Most recently, the board voted last week to abolish the university’s Gender Studies degree program beginning with the college’s 2024 enrollees.
The DeSantis administration did not return The Federalist’s request for comment.