Special Committee to Report on Academic Freedom in Florida

In response to a barrage of hostile actions affecting academic freedom and faculty governance in Florida's public higher education institutions, AAUP executive director Julie Schmid has appointed a special committee to review an apparent pattern of politically and racially motivated attacks on higher education in the state. The AAUP has chronicled with growing alarm political interference into the affairs of Florida’s colleges and universities that has threatened academic freedom and shared governance in those institutions and undermined the very role of higher education as essential to a functioning democracy. Examples include the January 18 statement from the presidents of the twenty-eight institutions in the Florida College System vowing to identify and eliminate any academic requirement or program “that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality”; Governor Ron DeSantis’s recent request that Florida’s public colleges and universities detail their spending on diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory; his appointment of seven new right-wing governing board members to the New College of Florida—an action reportedly aimed at purging the college of “left-wing radicals”—including an activist who led a campaign against CRT and diversity initiatives in higher education; and the 2021 University of Florida administration decision, widely criticized and later reversed, to bar three professors from serving as expert witnesses in voting rights cases against the state.

AAUP-supported principles on academic freedom and shared governance, which have been widely adopted by the academic community, insist that institutions of higher learning remain free from political intrusion. In a democratic society, political restrictions on teaching and scholarship cannot be countenanced if institutions of higher learning are to contribute to the common good. Under the auspices of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, a special committee consisting of AAUP members from academic institutions outside the state will review the available evidence; conduct interviews with university and state officials, faculty leaders; and others knowledgeable about the events, and prepare a report.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 26, 2023