DeSantis asks state colleges for data on critical race theory, diversity courses amid 'Stop WOKE' legal battles

The impact of Stop WOKE Act on colleges was blocked by a judge in November.

January 4, 2023, 3:56 PM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office has requested data on courses and programs that include “diversity, equity and inclusion” and “critical race theory” despite legal challenges to his law restricting such content.

ABC News has obtained a copy of the Dec. 28 governor’s memo.

In the memo, Office of Policy and Budget Director Chris Spencer asked State University System and Florida College System administrators to document “the expenditure of state resources on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory within our state colleges and universities.”

These public institutions are required to describe which programs and campus related activities are connected to these topics, and send how much these programs cost, how much state-funding is directed toward them, and how many employee positions are dedicated to them, according to the memo.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has prioritized a cost-effective higher education system that delivers high-quality service to Floridians to best prepare them for employment,” the memo read. “Additionally, state law requires dutiful attention to curriculum content at our higher education systems.”

PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech during his election night watch party at the Tampa Convention Center on Nov. 8, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist during his election night watch party at the Tampa Convention Center on Nov. 8, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Schools are told to send this information no later than Friday, Jan. 13, according to the memo.

This memo comes almost two months after a judge temporarily blocked DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE” Act from restricting race-related curriculum and conversation in colleges and universities, which is still being battled out in the courts. WOKE in the bill stands for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees."

The law restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race, or whether someone “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” due to U.S. racial history.

"No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race," DeSantis said in a statement on the signing of the bill. "In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida."

Critical race theory is a discipline often taught in graduate schools and higher education that seeks to understand how racism has shaped U.S. laws and how those laws have continued to impact the lives of non-white people, according to scholars of the theory.

Those behind the lawsuit against the "Stop WOKE" Act, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the law restricts free speech.

Supporters of the education legislation said critical race theory is discriminatory and that people should not be taught that some races or sexes are inherently oppressed or privileged.

DeSantis’ office declined to comment on ABC News' questions regarding the memo, its intention and timing, responding with "stay tuned.”

A representative from the State University System of Florida Board of Governors confirmed that all 12 schools in the system received the memo.

An email from the University of North Florida’s Office of the Provost was first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education that showed the administration asking university deans to compile lists of courses that fall under these themes of diversity and race.

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