Students can no longer take sociology to fulfill their core course requirements, Florida’s state university system ruled on Wednesday. Instead, its board of governors approved “a factual history course” as a replacement.
The decision by the 17-member board of governors came after fierce opposition from sociology professors in the university system, which includes the University of Florida and Florida State.
And it is the latest move by the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis to challenge the education establishment, and what the governor portrayed as its liberal orthodoxy. Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, had tried to leverage his education record in his failed campaign for president.
In a brief announcement on Wednesday, Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said he was proud of the board’s decision and looked forward to the history class and “the positive impact the addition of this course will have on our students and their future success.”
The replacement history class includes “America’s founding, the horrors of slavery, the resulting Civil War and the Reconstruction era.”
Florida has one of the country’s largest public university systems, with more than 430,000 students.
The move alarmed sociology professors, who believed it could lead to fewer students taking classes and majoring in the subject. The American Sociological Association said in a statement Wednesday that it was outraged by the decision, and that it was made without any “evidentiary basis.”
“The decision seems to be coming not from an informed perspective, but rather from a gross misunderstanding of sociology as an illegitimate discipline driven by ‘radical’ and ‘woke’ ideology,” the statement said. “To the contrary, sociology is the scientific study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior, which are at the core of civil literacy and are essential to a broad range of careers.”
In December, Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., wrote on social media that, “Sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists and no longer serves its intended purpose as a general knowledge course for students.”
He added that under Governor DeSantis, “Florida’s higher education system will focus on preparing students for high-demand, high-wage jobs, not woke ideology.”
Some professors have supported the move.
Jukka Savolainen, a sociology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, said in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal in December that the discipline was troubled and had become “brazenly political.” He called for including more contrarian points of view in the teaching of sociology.
“I have taught undergraduate sociology courses since 1996,” he wrote. “Through the decades, I have watched my discipline morph from a scientific study of social reality into academic advocacy for left-wing causes.”
In November, the board of governors approved removing Principles of Sociology from a list of courses that students can take to satisfy their general education requirement. The approval on Wednesday finalized that decision after a period of public comment.
The course covers topics like race, gender and sexual orientation, which conservatives in Florida and other states have targeted and tried to restrict.
In 2022, Mr. DeSantis signed legislation that restricted how racism and other aspects of history can be taught in schools and workplaces. The law’s sponsors called it the Stop WOKE Act. Among other things, it prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility for or guilt about the past actions of other members of their race.
“The governor-appointed administrative bodies overseeing Florida’s institutions of higher education have found a new target in the culture wars they are waging on the state’s campuses,” Anne Barrett, a sociology professor at Florida State University, wrote in an opinion essay published Wednesday on the website of the National Education Association.
She wrote that the removal of the course would be ”devastating for sociology in Florida,” adding, “enrollments will plummet. The opportunity to recruit majors will almost disappear. Weakened sociology departments are ripe for elimination and, ultimately, layoffs.”