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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


State changes to class core requirement class rankle sociology faculty

On Jan. 17, the Fla. Board of Governors approved an amendment to replace Principles of Sociology with Introductory Survey to 1877 on the core course list, causing frustration and strong reactions among sociology leaders and students.
Social Science building
Matt Vodges
Social Science building

The Fla. Board of Governors (BOG) approved rules to remove Principles of Sociology from the general education curriculum and eliminate state and federal funding for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the state’s public universities on Jan. 17.

Principles of Sociology’s replacement in the social sciences category is “Introductory Survey to 1877,”  which covers American history from the earliest colonial period to 1877 and fulfills the 2021 Florida mandate that requires students to take a civic literacy course and pass a civic literacy assessment to graduate.

The BOG’s rule also adds “Introductory to Geology” and “Introduction to Oceanography” as two new options in the natural sciences category. 

Manny Diaz, Florida education commissioner, had proposed the removal of the sociology introductory course during a 2023 November meeting. 

“Students should be focused on learning the truth about our country instead of being radicalized by woke ideologies in our college classrooms,” Diaz said during the meeting.

After Diaz presented the initial proposal on Nov. 9, sociology department leaders and students across Florida voiced their objection to the change, claiming it would “impoverish” the curriculum. The FAU community is apprehensive about this alteration. 

“We are concerned with understanding the world as it is,” said Ann Branaman, chair of the FAU sociology department.“Regardless of your politics, the reality is that we are diverse, and you cannot understand the world in which we live if you cannot understand the various ways in which people live and think differently.”

Branaman, in collaboration with sociology department chairs from nine of Florida’s public universities, jointly submitted a statement to the BOG on Nov. 21 that highlighted the importance of knowledge and skill sets acquired through the study of sociology. The statement also served as a request for the reinstatement of Principles of Sociology in the General Education Core Curriculum. FAU Associate Sociology Professor Philip Lewin submitted a public comment to the BOG expressing similar sentiments. 

Florida Statute 1007.25 was altered this year as part of SB 266, which forbids institutions of higher education from spending state funds on DEI programs or initiatives. This change made it so that general education core courses, among other things, cannot teach “identity politics” or insinuate that social inequalities are not systemic in U.S. institutions.

Although the BOG had already introduced similar DEI regulations in the State University System, the Board of Education’s unanimous vote on Jan. 17 officially enforces the rule for the 28 colleges that make up the Florida College System. 

Gregory Lukasik, FAU sociological perspectives professor, emphasizes the types of skills that students can gain through a sociology course and encourages diverse opinions.

He argues that the basis of the university system lies in “having the freedom to pursue research independently of political biases or ideological biases.” He and his colleagues are conscientious about avoiding political affirmations in the classroom.

“We want students to develop critical thinking skills, analytical skills, and research skills that can be used in other courses and also in the real world,” Lukasik said.

Students believe there is a connection between the current political climate opposing “woke” ideology and the removal of this course.

“A lot of people have this misconception that taking a sociology class is going to try and change whatever views you have,” Stephen Uter, FAU psychology sophomore, said. “That’s not what sociology does. Sociology tells you and teaches you about these different groups in our society and how they cooperate and  how they work.” 

Uter was introduced to sociology when he took the “Marriage and Family” course at Palm Beach State College to fulfill a credit requirement. Despite not needing any more sociology credits for his degree, Uter chose to take Principles of Sociology this semester at FAU due to his genuine passion for the subject. 

“I fell in love with the course material,” Uter said. “I think the material is very interesting, just taking a look at how the world works and how we as humans interact with each other.” 

Uter is considering minoring in sociology at FAU and has expressed concern about the potential implications of this removal on other majors, too. 

“If we go down the route that we’re going, psychology is going to be next,” Uter said. “Introduction to Psychology could be the next class that’s on the chopping block. It’s scary to think about.”

Austen Canonica, FAU three-time alumnus and adjunct professor, shares a similarity with Uter. Despite not majoring in sociology, Canonica grew very fond of the subject after being introduced to it through the general education curriculum during his second semester of college. 

“What I learned in that class was foundational,” said Canonica. “I can only think of a handful of classes that I’ve ever taken that I truly still think about on a daily basis.”

According to Canonica, the knowledge he obtained from Principles of Sociology contributes significantly to his current marketing profession and is valuable in his day-to-day life. 

“Marketing has a lot to do with people and understanding human beings. And same with management; management is like an art and science of getting the most out of people, so sociology foundationally impacted my life,” Canonica said. “I walked a little bit in other people’s shoes in that class, and it helped me think in a more empathetic way.”

Similarly, Kristen Burke, a reproductive health researcher at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), sees the course removal as “a loss for our intellectual knowledge and understanding of how society works.” Texas is another state affected by restrictive DEI policies.

Burke, who has a master’s in sociology and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the field, first encountered sociology through service work.

“If you learn a little bit of sociology, you end up using it every day…so it’s not the kind of thing that you’ll learn for a class and cram for a test, and it’ll disappear from your brain,” Burke said. “I think it sticks with you because it is so personally relevant.”

With the removal of Principles of Sociology as a core requirement option, Canonica recognizes the potential impact on students and sociology departments as a whole. He said he might never have discovered sociology if it weren’t part of the core course list.

“Fewer students taking classes means fewer courses [being taught], and that means less opportunity for the professors to teach those courses…” Canonica said. “But the most important thing that I think we lose is students gaining that knowledge because the professors in those courses really care, and they’re great.”

Principles of Sociology will still be available for students despite it being removed from the core course list under Regulation 8.005.

“This is not some private organization of a few people who can do whatever they want,” Lukasik said. “We’re serving a large community, we’re serving a state. And I think taxpayers, the parents and the students themselves should have a voice. We all care about this issue, and our voices apparently don’t matter… It’s demoralizing.”

Laurie Mermet is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM @laurie.mmt on Instagram.

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  • K

    KaylaJan 31, 2024 at 2:00 pm

    Another great article Laurie! Thanks for covering this

  • E

    Emmanuel CarréJan 29, 2024 at 5:21 pm

    Great article !