FIUGOP President responds to DeSantis backed higher education bill

Gov. DeSantis addressing the state while visiting FIU, June 19, 2020. Via FIU Flickr.

Conor Moore | Staff Writer

Last May, Gov. Ron Desantis signed Senate Bill 266 into law, a controversial legislation set to restructure the Florida Higher Education system. 

Critics of the legislation, including the United Faculty of Florida, have warned that the bill “will cause irreversible to Florida’s higher education system.”  In their opposition, they point to the bill’s limitations to the curriculum of core classes, the fundamental transformation of tenure and the dismantling of diversity, equity and inclusion bureaucracy. 

However, Jacob Aguirre, president of FIU College Republicans, couldn’t disagree more, and in a recent interview with PantherNOW, delved into why he and a majority of FIU’s conservatives support its implementation.

“There are a lot of misconceptions from those who oppose it, especially when talking about how it affects black fraternities and sororities”, he said.

Though barring universities from funding centers supportive of DEI, or other critical approaches to study, such as FIU’s Center for Women and Gender Studies,  provisions were added to exclude student organizations from defunding. 

“If you go online and watch the committee hearings with representative Robert Andrade who proposed the bill, or even read the bill itself, it doesn’t prevent minorities from expressing themselves or prevent them from having their own clubs. That’s not what the bill is doing,” said Aguirre.

Aguirre would go on to blame the Democratic party for the strong reactions against the bill.

“People have short-term memory loss when it comes to this stuff. It’s Democrats who control the narrative relating to subjects such as CRT and radical feminism theory. Professors are supposed to present these theories as theories, and yet they portray them as facts.”

However, dismantling DEI isn’t the sole purpose of the bill, as Aguirre would also praise the reorientation of core curriculum.

“No one mentions the good parts of the bill,” said Aguirre. “Such as sections 55 to 75, which mention a curriculum that prepares students to be good students and equip them for success.”

However, this same section also restructures the academic teaching of core classes, such as American History,  towards a more “colorblind” view. This has led to condemnation from multiple professional historian associations, including the American Historical Association, the US’s oldest and largest professional historian organization.

Aguirre also had some choice words for other student organizations.

 “I think what people are doing, especially YDSA [Young Democratic Socialist of America], is that they are actively working on fear-mongering students, especially those who are black, brown and LGBTQ.”

He would accuse the organization as well as major media outlets of stoking fear to further their own political interest. 

‘The language they use is ridiculously inflammatory,” said Aguirre.

“YDSA called the bill and other things Gov. DeSantis has passed as a genocide against transgenders. I think radical leftist individuals and the mainstream media push major misinformation such as this to fulfill and pursue their agendas.”

The rhetoric used by YDSA has been pronounced, it has also come on the heels of recent bills including  Senate Bill 1674, which bars queer Floridians from utilizing the bathroom of their gender identity, and Senate Bill 254, which bans gender-affirming care for minors not already being treated, as well as placing obstacles for adults seeking gender-affirming care.

Lastly, Aguirre discussed how in his perspective, students are incorrect in viewing the bill as targeting them.

“Students can engage in these discussions as much as they want. SB-266 addresses scenarios when universities fund organizations that promote these ideologies.”

A main contention with the bill has been its subtraction of many subjects regarding the core curriculum of certain majors, where omission has been a main cause of concern for professors, faculty and students alike.

The removal of tenure also plays a large part in fears from teachers and academics alike. 

When asked about the changes to tenure, Aguirre contended that they serve to impede the supposed indoctrination of students by university professors. 

“Any professor who wants to brainwash their students to hold a set of beliefs is not fulfilling his or her duties. An educator’s job is to educate and not indoctrinate”, said Aguirre.

Multiple civil rights organizations have labeled the legislation a direct attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech. Aguirre would make no mention of this. 

“Universities don’t have the right to tell someone what they think about topics they think should be debated. They’re supposed to be hubs of free thought and should play the neutral role.”

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