Political Interference in Higher Ed

Our students deserve quality education that includes freedom of inquiry, difficult truths, and many perspectives. But politicians in some states are trying to substitute their own ideological beliefs for educational freedom by passing legislation that interferes with how colleges and universities operate. 

  • These bills mandate or prohibit content in the classroom.
  • These bills empower partisan political appointees to determine campus policy.
  • These bills limit the freedom to learn, teach, and conduct research.

Jump to Tools and Actions.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has made a radical reshaping of higher education a centerpiece of his administration, and legislators in Texas, Ohio, Tennessee, and other states are following suit. 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.

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AAUP Statements and Initiatives

  • Statement on Political Interference in Higher Education. January 2024. A statement by the AAUP's Committee on College and University Governance outlining the recent spate of political interference in higher education and actions faculty can take to counteract restrictive legislation.
  • The AAUP Condemns Escalating Assault on Academic Freedom at Penn. January 2024. The AAUP condemns the escalating assault on academic freedom at the University of Pennsylvania and across the United States. Academic freedom and the autonomy of colleges and universities are being undermined by an opportunistic governmental interest in “antidiscrimination” and “campus safety” deployed to restrict what can be said or expressed on campuses.
  • Defending the Freedom to Learn. October 2023. The AAUP joined the AFT, the National Education Association, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Network for Public Education in launching a Freedom to Learn pledge aimed at counteracting rhetoric banning books and curriculms.
  • Florida's "Stop WOKE" Act Sabotages Higher Ed. June 2023. The AAUP filed an amicus brief in support ofFlorida higher ed faculty challenging the state's "Stop WOKE" Act, which prohibits professors at Florida’s public universities from expressing certain disfavored viewpoints while teaching on topics including racial and sexual discrimination and injustice. The AAUP’s brief in the case Pernell v. Lamb argues that the law violates the First Amendment and threatens to destroy academic freedom, sabotage higher education, and undermine democracy.
  • One type of political interference in higher education is a wave of educational gag orders. Over the past few years, hundreds of these bills aiming to suppress teaching about race in American history have been introduced in state and local governments. Learn more and access tools specific to this issue here
  • 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 appointed a special committee to review an apparent pattern of politically and racially motivated attacks on higher education in the state. Read more and read the committee's full report, published December 2023.
  • 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.
  • Freedom in the Classroom. 2007. Addresses efforts to impose on university classrooms mandatory and ill-conceived standards of "balance," "diversity," and "respect," and why education does not thrive in an atmosphere of state-encouraged suspicion and surveillance.
  • Statement on the "Academic Bill of Rights." 2003. Addresses efforts to redefine and impose principles of "neutrality" and "nonindoctrination" in ways that contradict academic freedom.

More Resources

Articles from Academe, Magazine of the AAUP