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Political Interference in Florida

Our students deserve quality education that includes difficult truths and many perspectives. But politicians in some states, most notably Florida, are trying to substitute their own ideological beliefs for educational freedom. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has made a radical reshaping of higher education a centerpiece of his administration—and his allies in other states are watching.

Here are a few of the draconian measures recently enacted or proposed in Florida:

  • The Stop WOKE Act, signed into law in April 2022, restricts the way that race-related concepts can be taught in classrooms and workplace trainings in the state.
  • In early January 2023, Governor DeSantis appointed seven new far-right trustees at the New College of Florida with the stated objective of reshaping the public liberal arts college in the image of Hillsdale College, a private Christian institution known for rejecting federal funding and guiding the Trump administration’s widely panned 1776 report.
  • In a January press release, DeSantis promised to “prohibit DEI, CRT and other discriminatory programs and barriers to learning” and 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, introduced in February 2023, 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.

This is censorship and a clear violation of the freedom to learn, teach, and conduct research. These measures do long-term damage to freedom of inquiry and  undermine our academic institutions as centers of knowledge creation, innovation, and cutting edge research.

The AAUP is working with our allies to defend higher education. Together, we can protect quality education in this country and ensure that our students have the opportunity to learn the truth about our history.

Special Committee to Report on Academic Freedom in Florida

In response to a barrage of hostile legislative and political actions affecting academic freedom and faculty governance in Florida's public higher education institutions, the AAUP has appointed a special committee to review an apparent pattern of politically and racially motivated attacks on higher education in the state. Read more.

AAUP Statements

  • Florida Bill Would Destroy Higher Education as We Know It. February 2023. With the introduction of HB 999, the Florida legislature—at Governor DeSantis’s 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.
  • Florida College System Censorship Can Not Stand. January 2023. In a democracy, higher education is a common good which requires that instructors have full freedom in their teaching to select materials and It would determine the approach to the subject. The AAUP is appalled at the actions of the Florida College System presidents,who, while giving lip service to academic freedom, have announced their intention to censor teaching and learning by expunging ideas they want to suppress.
  • AAUP President Cautions Against Lack of Transparency as University of Florida Seeks New President. January 2022. A recent faculty senate report highlighted troubling threats to academic freedom at the University of Florida. And while a presidential search is an opportunity to affirm principles of shared governance, and to highlight transparency and accountability in public higher education, Florida appears poised again to step away from the mission of higher education to serve the common good.
  • Florida's Stop WOKE Act Must Be Rejected by the Court. October 2022. AAUP president Irene Mulvey condemns the recent filing by lawyers for the state of Florida defending the "Stope WOKE Act" and emphasizes that it is educational gag orders like this that are the real threat to American higher education and must be rejected by the court.
  • A Relentless Crusade to Destroy Higher Education in Florida. April 2022. Continuing a relentless crusade to destroy higher education in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis staged a performative and disingenuous press conference on April 19 at which he signed into law Senate Bill 7044, further attacking professors and eroding academic freedom in the state.


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