The Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday approved a regulation that will introduce a statewide post-tenure faculty review process every five years.
Under Regulation 10.003, college deans at four-year public institutions will evaluate their academic faculty based on performance relative to assigned responsibilities, student complaints, compliance with state law and regulations and other unspecified measures of faculty conduct.
“Until recently, faculty saw themselves as part of the success of the system,” Deanna Michael, a member of the board who also is a professor at the University of South Florida, said during Wednesday’s meeting, according to The Tampa Bay Times. “Now the faculty feel as though they’re being pushed away.”
While schools across the country have publicly condemned Florida’s constraint on academic freedom, United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard, whose petition against the regulation gained over 1,400 signatures, points to the dangerous implications such precedence puts in place.
“The way that many of our faculty are looking at it is that this is intentionally designed from the ground up to allow bad actors to cull faculty from departments with whom they personally disagree or who have politics that are inconvenient to the institution,” Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, told the Florida Phoenix.
One Florida school recently terminated the contract of an English professor for his racial justice unit after receiving a parent complaint “over something that never had been a concern for 12 years,” according to the professor, Sam Joeckel, who had taught at Palm Beach Atlantic for 21 years. While this school did not allow faculty tenure, this regulation provides public Florida schools the power to crack down on tenured faculty for a similar rationale.
Board of Governors Vice Chairman Eric Silagy, however, believes the uniform post-tenure review will create a “fair and objective” process that will serve institutions better than the individual versions schools currently have in place.
“This is a policy that has been well-developed and will serve the institution, will serve the system, and I believe ultimately will serve our faculty and our students well,” added state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, according to Tampa Bay Times.
Legislation aimed at weakening faculty tenure stems from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ current disdain for Florida’s public higher education system, which he believes is plagued by a liberal ideology that curbs the free speech of conservative faculty and students. Regulation 10.003 is a stipulation of a senate bill pushed by two former state Senators Manny Diaz Jr. and Ray Rodrigues, who have each since been appointed to key positions in Florida’s public education system. Diaz now serves as the Florida Education Commissioner while Rodrigues is currently the state’s university system Chancellor.
As transgressive as this bill might seem to tenured faculty now, a proposed house bill would allow faculty tenure to be reviewed at any time if deemed appropriate by the school leaders, which would quickly obsolesce this approved regulation’s five-year review process.
As Florida dishes out blows to tenure, the pipeline of faculty coming to teach in Florida might begin to dry out.
“When we sit on search committees the first thing we do is reach out, emails, spend lots of time making phone calls. And more and more often, we are hearing ‘Florida? Not Florida. Not now. Not yet,’” said Mathew Lata, president of the Florida State University chapter for the United Faculty of Florida, told the Board of Governors, according to the Florida Phoenix.