(NEW YORK)— PEN America said today that comments from Florida Education Commissioner Manny Díaz Jr. posted on X, that sociology “has been hijacked by left-wing activists and no longer serves its intended purpose as a general knowledge course for students,” demonstrate that Florida has enacted an ideologically motivated ban on sociology in general education, undermining both academic freedom and student learning on campus. 

Díaz’s post comes after an early November vote from the Florida Board of Governors which moved to eliminate sociology as an option to fulfill the state’s general education requirement in the public university system. In November, Díaz proposed the removal of sociology, but did not mention ideological motivations and instead focused on replacing sociology with civic literacy or American history. Sociology faculty have expressed concern that removing the course as a general education requirement will diminish Florida students’ educational opportunities and may shrink enrollment and reduce faculty positions.

This year, Florida also implemented SB 266, the anti-DEI educational gag order that also says general education courses cannot teach “identity politics” or include “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States.” In January, the Board of Governors will formally approve regulations implementing SB 266.

In response to Díaz’s statement, Jeremy C. Young, Freedom to Learn program director at PEN America, said:

“This is an alarming statement by Manny Díaz, and one that substantially undermines academic freedom and university governance in the state. While governing boards are free to modify general education curricula, they should consult faculty before doing so, and should never make such a change on explicitly ideological grounds. The Board of Governors’ action may result in thousands of students being deprived of access to sociology and the dismissal of dozens of professors, all the while setting a dangerous precedent that curricular decisions should rest on the ideological dictates of politicians.”

“The role of a university is to foster an environment of intellectual freedom,” Young continued. “With this act, Díaz and the Florida Board of Governors have done exactly the opposite: they have scapegoated an entire academic discipline, ignored faculty input, and put politics above the freedom to learn.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057