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Florida Universities Eliminate Sociology as a Core Course, Ban DEI Funding

The Board of Governors ruled to eliminate sociology as a general education course requirement in Florida's state universities and colleges, amidst new legislation that banned funding for all DEI programs. Gov. DeSantis has targeted sociology in particular and as a ‘woke' ideology, but FAU students and faculty beg to differ.

By Kiara Buttrey | MediaLab@ FAU

Apr 19, 2024

Earlier this year, Florida’s state’s Board of Governors ruled to eliminate sociology as a core course in the state’s 28 public university and college campuses. The Florida board also ruled to ban state funding for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at state universities. 

The decision to ban sociology as a core course is outlined in new regulations, which stipulate that “every undergrad student should graduate as an informed citizen through rigorous education courses that promote historically accurate and high-quality course work.”

“It's troubling more symbolically,” says Ann Branaman, Professor and Chair of Sociology at Florida Atlantic University.

Branaman explained that FAU has seen a steady decline in enrollment in SYG 1000 Sociological Perspectives with numbers decreasing from 2000 to 999 enrolled students in the course over the past year. There has also been a 50% decline in the number of sociology majors, she said.

Many students who come to college have never heard of or taken a sociology course before attending, so there is no pipeline leading toward the major without taking that introductory course. Sociology focuses on social causes and the consequences of human behavior. Topics such as gender, social movements, race and sexuality are talked about within the course.

“Sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists,” said Manny Diaz Jr., Florida's education commissioner wrote last December in a post on social media, including on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Under @GovRonDeSantis, Florida’s higher education system will focus on preparing students for high-demand, high-wage jobs, not woke ideology.”

These recent legislative changes are a representation of the culture wars in the country, including the attacks on DEI and wokeism as a whole. 

“They don’t want students to be socially and politically engaged in critical endeavors,” said Phil Hough, an associate sociology professor at Florida Atlantic University.

But why strike sociology? “Because sociology discusses these issues, and we talk about them in our classes,” said Hough.

The board of governors has decided to approve a “factual history course” as the alternative to an introductory sociology course, and this course coincides with the civic literacy requirement. 

These two decisions aren’t scheduled to take effect until Fall 2025. However, due to the civic literacy course requirements, sociology departments have already begun to feel the impact.

All college students are required to satisfy a civic literacy course requirement in order to graduate. This requirement is met by taking and passing the civic literacy exam.

“I think it’s crucial for allowing students to have access to a perspective that highlights all of the ways that society could be different,” says Branaman. “It would be a great disservice to kind of delete that point of view from general education.” 

The course credit for SYG 1000 will still be valid for any student who has already taken the course and will register for the course until that Fall 2025 turnover.

“We are having to really strategize and work hard to recruit enrollment in our upper division classes,” said Branaman.

Florida's Board of Education also announced the new rule that public colleges cannot use state or federal funds for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and activities of any sort.

This restriction can affect campus activities, clubs, and programs that promote social activism and classify individuals based on race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

“The targeting of this action aimed at diversity, sexism, and gender education sets us back as American scholars,” said Justis Sisk, a 21-year-old political science major at FAU.

FAU is the number one public university in Florida for campus ethnic diversity, according to U.S. News & World Report, making it the state's most culturally, racially and ethnically diverse university. However, this data pertains to the students. 

DEI inclusion workshops were in progress amongst faculty at many universities, including FAU, without explicitly considering race to integrate more representative faculty members. 

These efforts have diminished due to the ban on DEI funding.

There is a lot of ambiguity regarding the language and actions universities can take under these new legislations.

“As a student this is frightening to witness," said Sisk. “Once they attack education, what’s next?"

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