A new bill aimed at banning Critical Race Theory from Florida public institutions like UCF was announced on Wednesday — a UCF faculty member said it’ll likely be ruled “unconstitutional.”
Republican Rep. Randy Fine, District 53, said in a press release House Bill 57 would include all public schools, public Florida universities and colleges, state agencies, county and municipal governments, as well as private government contractors.
“Critical Race Theory is racist at its core and has no place in the state of Florida,” Fine said in the press release.
Aubrey Jewett, a 26-year associate professor of political science at UCF, said that while he wouldn’t be surprised if the bill passed, it would violate professors’ freedom of speech if enforced at Florida universities and colleges.
“I’m pretty confident that it would be declared unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights,” Jewett said.
CRT has been a popular topic for Florida recently. In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis led the push to amend a rule that restricted how public schools taught race. The rule specifies that teachers can’t share their personal views or attempt to convince students of a particular point of view.
“We’re building off what Gov. DeSantis did," Fine said. "He made a rule, but rules aren’t permanent – laws are.”
Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a UCF alumnus and the UCF District 49 representative, said he hasn’t read the newborn bill yet but is concerned by Fine’s attempt to prohibit conversation in an institution of higher learning. Smith said higher education institutions are meant to be places where people learn more about the world and consider a diversity of perspectives on life.
“We live in a free country and that includes freedom of thought,” Smith said. “If we can’t learn from our history, we’re doomed to repeat it.”
While the bill itself doesn’t mention CRT, Fine said it bans the use of the 10 “divisive” concepts that form the foundation of CRT and seeks to end the use of the theory in training, policy and any other context in all levels of government in Florida.
“It’s a scourge,” Fine said, referring to CRT. “It seems to have taken hold in elements of our country, and I don’t want it in Florida.”
For Jewett, he said limiting the academic freedoms of professors on campus could ultimately have negative impacts for UCF.
“It would put them at serious risk for accreditation issues if they’re trying to tell professors what they can or can’t talk about in their classrooms,” Jewett said.
The bill will be formally introduced in the 2022 Florida Legislative Session.