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Florida State U. drops ‘race, gender’ course after only 2 students enroll

University says cancellation isn’t related to new state DEI law

Too few Florida State University students expressed interest in learning about “race, class and gender” this fall through a new African American Studies course, the university confirmed this week.

All three subjects in the course are frequent topics of discussion in higher education institutions across the U.S., with many dedicating whole departments to women’s studies, gender studies, African American studies and related subjects.

But only two students signed up for the new fall elective, “Race, Class and Gender,” at Florida State University in Tallahassee, university spokeswoman Amy Farnum-Patronis told The College Fix.

“During registration and leading up to the start of the semester, classes may be canceled for different reasons, including instructor availability or low enrollment. In this specific case, the reason for canceling was low enrollment,” Farnum-Patronis said via email this week.

The FSU African American Studies program offered the special topics course for the first time this semester, but it was not a general education course nor was it required, she said.

The class was canceled one week before the semester began Aug. 28, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Senior Laura Arrieta, who signed up for the course, said she suspects a new Florida education law may be to blame for the cancellation.

Signed in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law prohibits public colleges and universities from spending tax dollars on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, or DEI.

“I’d seen the bill passed and was devastated, but did not think that it would affect me so soon,” Arrieta told the newspaper.

A political science and criminology major who plans to practice criminal law, Arrieta said she signed up for the class because she thought it would be a “safe” space for her.

“The class would have taken place in the BSU (Black Student Union) house on campus, and I knew it’d be the first class I’d take at FSU that would truly be inclusive and safe for conversation,” Arrieta told the newspaper. “I also knew that it’d be the most diverse class I’d take as I often struggle to find people who look like me in my classes.”

However, a university spokesperson told the Tallahassee Democrat the “Race, Class and Gender” course was canceled because of low enrollment, not the state law.

The Florida State University 2023-24 course catalog lists four other classes that also focus specifically on “race, class and gender”: the Philosophy of Race, Class and Gender; LGBTQ History; Women and Children in the Civil Rights Movement; and Intersections, Power and Policy.

DeSantis and others have criticized universities for pushing an “ideology,” not education, on students through DEI courses.

The Florida governor said in May that college DEI programs attempt to “impose orthodoxy” on students, encouraging political activism and division based on “superficial characteristics,” The College Fix reported at the time.

“This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda,” DeSantis said, adding that DEI should stand for “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination — and that has no place in our public institutions.”

In August, a group of students and faculty at New College of Florida filed a lawsuit challenging the law on First Amendment grounds.

The legislation, HB 999/SB 266, states public institutions “may not expend any state or federal funds to promote, support or maintain any programs or campus activities that … advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism.”

MORE: Florida public universities reported millions spent on DEI

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.