AAUP criticizes “political interference” by the Florida government at universities

University of South Florida
USF. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News. 2016.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

The American Association of University Professors on Wednesday released a report criticizing “political interference” in Florida’s higher education system.

The 53-page report focused on measures approved by the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis during the past several years, actions taken by higher-education officials and an effort by conservatives to remake New College of Florida.

For example, the report took issue with several laws signed by DeSantis in 2022, including a law that made changes to tenure reviews for faculty members and required universities to periodically change accreditors.

The report also criticized a controversial law that restricted the way certain race-related concepts can be taught in schools and another measure designed to keep secret parts of universities’ searches for new presidents.

The report was compiled by a committee that the association said interviewed more than 65 people, including current and former Florida university professors and administrators.

In a concluding part of the report, the committee wrote that shared governance in Florida’s university system “stands in mortal danger” because of “legislative and governing board interference in fundamental matters of curricula and faculty status, including tenure,” that the group said should be under the purview of faculty.

“We are losing talent in the Sunshine State, we are losing the top talent of students and faculty. This is bigger than grifters at New College getting bloated salaries. Bigger than the partisan rhetoric out of this Legislature. We are talking about an erosion of higher education,” Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said Wednesday during a news conference at the Capitol about the report.

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