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Florida Bill Attacks Academic and Speech Freedom

Like many of you, we’re alarmed about the implications of recent efforts, in several states, to legislate away academic freedom, shared governance and tenure—and with them, the basis for free inquiry at public institutions.

With the introduction of House Bill 999 last week, the Florida Legislature—at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging—has doubled down on its attacks on academic freedom with a bill that would effectively silence faculty and students across the ideological spectrum and purge whole fields of study from public universities.

The bill would place control of core curriculums and institutional mission statements entirely in the hands of political appointees. It would limit or ban students’ ability to pursue certain majors or areas of study. It forbids “theoretical or exploratory” content in general education courses. Simply put, it would transform Florida’s colleges and universities into an arm of the DeSantis political operation.

We can’t let this happen on our watch—in Florida or in any state. The AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Coalition against Censorship have issued a joint statement on this, which you can see and share here.

Please add your name to this statement and commit to fight legislative efforts like these. We’ll be in touch with more actions you can take as our campaign builds.

In unity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President
Randi Weingarten, AFT President

Redefinitions of Anti-Semitism and Racism?

We issued a statement today condemning recent political attempts to restrict teaching that critically examines the history and policies of the state of Israel and the United States. In the first case, legislation redefines antisemitism to include political criticism of the state of Israel. In the second, legislation redefines critical analysis of the history of slavery and its legacies in US society as being itself racially discriminatory against whites. In both cases these draconian initiatives paint robust academic inquiry as dangerous and contradict the purpose of higher education to serve the common good.

Such legislation imposes extreme unjustified restrictions on faculty speech and academic freedom. “While the growth of antisemitism is a severe threat, it can and should be addressed under existing civil rights laws as religious or race discrimination,” the statement reads. “These new laws, however, expand the definition of antisemitism to encompass political speech.” Such overbroad definitions, as in a 2019 Florida law, “constitute a state-imposed orthodoxy that prohibits or discourages faculty members and students from engaging in academic work that may question the state’s positions on Israel or Zionism.” Similarly, legislative restrictions on curriculum about race and racism in the US constitute political interference designed to curb critical analysis and free inquiry about the history and nature of systemic racism.

The AAUP urges the defeat of these legislative initiatives and others like them in order to protect the academic freedom that is vital to the preservation of democracy.

The full statement: Legislative Threats to Academic Freedom: Redefinitions of Antisemitism and Racism, can be found here.

In solidarity,
Charles Toombs, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (Committee A)

Mass shootings and academic freedom

The recent mass shooting of seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has refocused efforts to stem the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the nation. This time the effort has been initiated and led by the surviving students, supported by their teachers, parents, and students across the country. The American Association of University Professors salutes these brave and eloquent young people.

Gun violence is not a problem limited to high schools. Colleges and universities have been sites of mass shootings since 1966 when sixteen people died and thirty-one were injured at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sign on to our statement in support of gun control.

The AAUP has long opposed and continues to oppose unequivocally any legislation or policy that would compel colleges and universities to permit firearms on campus. In this, we stand with the overwhelming majority of educators across the country.

Given the widespread availability of the most deadly weaponry and the growing number of instances in which such weapons have wreaked havoc, however, it is not sufficient only to champion the right of colleges and universities to bar their presence.

We are once again raising the call to take action.

To ensure the safety of students, faculty, and others on campus, we must speak out in support of broader sensible gun control measures like those proposed by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Specifically, the AAUP calls on faculty and students, on administrators and trustees, and most of all on our political leaders to support:

  • A total ban on the sale and possession of military-style automatic weapons designed solely to kill human beings and on high-capacity magazines and bump stocks;
  • Comprehensive background checks for all who purchase firearms, whether in a gun store or at a gun show, with reasonable restrictions on access to weapons for those with diagnosed mental illness or with a history of violence, including domestic violence;
  • A complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms; and
  • Raising the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21.

We therefore also endorse the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, as well as the efforts of students to protest gun violence with peaceful walkouts on March 14 and April 20.

Add your name to our statement calling for gun control measures.


P.S. To read or share our full statement, go here.