On Thursday, Florida State higher-education officials proposed changes in general education core courses but received some pushback from educators and students. The proposed change involved preventing an Introduction to Sociology course dealing with issues of gender, sexuality, and race from counting as a social science general education requirement at Florida colleges and universities.

According to the proposed change, the course The Principles of Sociology would still be available to students. They could take it as an elective rather than part of their general education curriculum that all students must complete.

A Fall 2022 syllabus for this course offered various course objectives designed to help students “develop a better understanding of how larger social forces shape their own lives and significant relationships.”

According to the course schedule on this syllabus, one exam would cover “Gender, Sex, & Sexuality” and “Social Class & Education,” and another one would cover “Race, Ethnicity, & Migration.”

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This current interest in general education requirements stems from a new, controversial law (SB 266) by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislation and Governor Ron DeSantis that passed, requiring state college and university systems to undergo a review of their general education requirements. The law also prevented colleges and universities from spending money on DIE (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives.

As a result of SB 266, faculty committees reviewed their core courses. They recommended the university system’s Board of Governors for “removal, alignment, realignment, or addition” based on specific criteria.

Notable recommendations from the faculty committees included adding Introduction to Geology and Introduction to Oceanography to the natural sciences class offerings and a history course, Introductory Survey to 1877, to the social sciences offerings.

The faculty committees did not recommend removing any core courses, but state one member of the Board of Governors, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr, recommended removing Principles of Sociology and replacing it with a history course that would allow them to meet a required civic literacy competency.

Diaz states, “The students would be able to take the course that was added for 1877, the American history course, which would help them fulfill the civic literacy requirement.” Amanda Phalin, a professor at the University of Florida, opposed this measure and instead supported the faculty recommendations, stating, “I think that we should approve the list as given to us by our subject matter experts, so I would not be in favor of removing that (the sociology course) from the list.”

A student board member from Florida State University, Jack Hitchcock, also spoke against the proposal. “I certainly agree that adding the (history course) promotes civic engagement in education. I don’t know how deleting Principles of Sociology promotes civic engagement in education. So, I would share the same sentiment,” Hitchcock said.

Thursday’s meeting of The Board of Governors Academic and Student Affairs Committee approved the proposed changes to the core courses list, including Diaz’s proposal; however, the list of courses would need approval from the entire Board of Governors at a subsequent meeting.