National Professor Organization Calls On Academics To Fight Florida Higher Ed Reforms ‘Tooth And Nail’

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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A national organization for professors released a preliminary report on Wednesday calling on academics to fight “tooth and nail” against higher education reforms in Florida.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ unveiled his higher education agenda in January that called to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, review curriculum to emphasize liberty and Western tradition and revise tenure. The American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) committee alleged the reforms were an “unparalleled” assault on academic freedom, tenure and shared governance and warned that they could be adopted by other states, the report reads. (RELATED: ‘I’m Always Rejected’: Students Criticize Diversity, Equity And Inclusion As Discriminatory During DeSantis Panel)

“We call on all professional organizations, unions, faculty, staff, and administrators across the country to fight such ‘reforms’ tooth and nail and to offer support to our colleagues in Florida however they can,” the report reads. “We are in this together.”

The report cited DeSantis’ decision to appoint six conservative members to the New College of Florida’s board of trustees — which tipped the ideological majority of the board and was successful in making several structural changes to the institution including axing its DEI office and naming former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran interim president. It also referenced the Legislature’s decision to pass several bills dating back to 2021 aimed to reform higher education, one of which was signed into law on May 15.

“The AAUP established the special committee to review an apparent pattern of politically, racially, and ideologically motivated attacks on public higher education in Florida led by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the pus[h] by the Florida legislature,” Kelly Benjamin, AAUP media and communications, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “What is happening in Florida, — the crack down on academic freedom, demonizing of professors, dismantling of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, evisceration of shared governance — will have very real and damaging consequences to the quality of higher education in Florida.”

The committee formed in January and interviewed more than 40 faculty members and former presidents at public colleges and universities in Florida, according to the report. They claim that Florida’s education agenda “will not stay” in the state and warned against politicians “who use phrases like ‘Stope WOKE,’ ‘DEI bureaucracy,’ and ‘indoctrination’ to limit academic freedom.”

“This preliminary report, and the subsequent full report forthcoming, is an attempt to sound the alarm on the destruction of the public college and university system in the state,” Benjamin told the DCNF.

Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’ press secretary, told the DCNF that the governor’s “actions further solidify Florida’s position as a national leader in higher education.”

“Florida is #1 in higher education and #1 in education overall,” he told the DCNF. “Our flagship university, the University of Florida, is the fifth highest ranked public school in the nation.”

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