The headlines out of Florida keep getting worse and worse. Over the past year, Governor Ron DeSantis has waged an all-out attack on higher education and sought to suppress teaching about race and gender. He’s also gearing up to attack union rights in the state. What all these things have in common is that they infringe on the rights of people in the state to teach, learn, speak, and assemble freely.
Here are just a few developments from the last year:
- The Stop WOKE Act restricts the way that race-related concepts can be taught in classrooms and workplace trainings in the state (enforcement of parts of the law is currently suspended after a judge found them to violate the First Amendment).
- Confusing guidelines for teaching K-12 students about gender identity and sexual orientation combined with harsh penalties have led to the removal of books from libraries and classrooms.
- DeSantis has promised to require college and university presidents and boards of trustees to “take ownership of hiring and retention decisions, without interference from unions and faculty committees.”
- House Bill 999 would allow political appointees to control core curricula and institutional mission statements. It would ban gender studies as a major or minor, and prohibit the inclusion of “unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content” in general education courses (presumably including all scientific theories). It would also require boards of trustees or presidents to conduct faculty hiring, and allow boards to “review any faculty member’s tenure status,” apparently with or without cause—a change that would effectively eliminate tenure.
Enormous damage is being done to freedom and education in Florida, and it won’t stop there. Politicians in other states are preparing to follow DeSantis’s lead, and all signs point to a presidential run—with the slogan “Make America Florida.”
Our students deserve quality education that includes difficult truths and many perspectives. The AAUP is working with our allies to defend higher education. We hope you will be an active part of that effort.
If you haven’t already, please join fellow AAUP members and a number of organizational endorsers and sign your name to our statement on Florida HB 999. Signing will put you on a list to receive occasional alerts about actions you can take.
You can find more information and resources on our website.