Rep. Alex Andrade proposes bill to Florida House of Reps to eliminate gender and sexuality studies

The bill put before the Florida House of Representatives intends to eliminate gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, and alter the proceedings of the Board of Trustees.


Eston Parker III

The entrance to the Breezeway at FAU. Photo by Eston Parker III.

Savannah Peifer, Editor-in-Chief

Rep. Alexander Andrade recently proposed HB 999, a bill that could change the way universities operate. His aim is to eliminate gender and sexuality studies programs, to the distress of the campus community.

Andrade is a Republican whose district includes the city of Pensacola and the legislation he is proposing — which would go into effect July 1, 2023, if lawmakers pass it — would eliminate the teaching of gender and sexuality studies and critical race theory. It also gives full hiring authority to the university’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and allows them to call a tenure review at any time.

Andrade did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. FAU’s BoT Operations liaison, Andrew LaPlant directed the UP to university spokesperson Joshua Glanzer who declined to comment for this story citing pending legislation.

The proposal also bans any campus group or event that claims to encourage the idea people are discriminated against because of gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity.

Staff members from the Center for IDEAS did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

The Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) offers students an undergraduate minor and a masters program in WGSS. The center also offers a certificate in gender and equity that would be removed under the bill.

Nicole Morse, director of the Center for WGSS, argues the implementation of this bill will impact more than just the named majors.

“Women, gender and sexuality studies is an interdisciplinary field that connects with every other discipline, so eliminating it will have wide-ranging impacts across the university,” Morse wrote in an email.

Each BoT in the state is instructed to “provide direction to each constituent university on removing from its programs any major or minor in Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative, major or minor of these belief systems,” according to the bill.

It also mandates courses must emphasize “engagement with the Western literary tradition,” a sentiment Gov. Ron DeSantis supported in his announcement to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Morse claims the bill is too vague for students and professors to understand the full impacts.

“As written, the bill is extremely unclear and confusing, which means that right now it’s challenging to make the kinds of long term plans that are crucial in higher education,” Morse wrote.

Kendall New, a graduate student majoring in WGSS, says this bill is detrimental to academic freedom.

“I am deeply concerned for my colleagues, my fellow FAU students, and students across this state who’s right to education may be on the line,” New wrote in an email. “This bill poses an existential threat to all Florida universities, being that FL HB 999 would end academic freedom and university independence, which is essential if Florida universities want to continue to be institutions of free expression and interdisciplinary research.”

She wrote the House of Representatives must understand passage of the bill will lead to the “fall of the Florida university system.”

WGSS professor Jane Caputi said the discipline does not require or teach any type of thinking.

“WGSS does not demand that students adhere to one point of view. We teach critical thinking. Research and theories are always subject to analysis, debate, counter-argument, and so on,” Caputi wrote. “In WGGS classrooms, students are not expected to conform to any beliefs or ideologies; they are expected to explore and evaluate ideas, including by trying out their own ideas, and then coming to their own conclusions and judgments.”

She explained that all educators strive for the best outcomes for their students and lawmakers must understand that and work alongside them.

“The framers of laws that would bar the teaching of gender studies or teachings about structural racism, might instead take a different path. Might they instead expand the curriculum, establishing additional programs to represent fields they find to be neglected, such as Western Civilization Studies,” Caputi wrote. “For the best outcome for our students, give students more, not fewer, options and ensure them the most expansive education possible, one that will allow them to understand and thrive in our complex world.”

Caputi encourages students to educate themselves on topics intersecting with women, gender, and sexuality and get involved outside of the campus community.

New urges students to fight against the passage of the bill.

“Follow @StandForFreedomFL for updates on how you can push back against this awful bill, and join us on March 8th as we go to the state capitol in support of Thought and Freedom in Education!” New wrote.

Savannah Peifer is the editor-in-chief for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories DM her on instagram @ginger.savvy or email her at [email protected].