“Florida is where woke goes to die,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during his victory speech after Tuesday’s midterm elections. His win over Democratic candidate Charlie Crist is another advancement toward the state’s continuous shift to becoming increasingly red as opposed to a swing state—and that has those at some Florida universities worried.
“We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents,” he said during his speech regarding the state’s education laws such as the recently proposed Stop WOKE Act (“WOKE” being an acronym for Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees), which is turning the heads of those in higher education.
DESANTIS: "We will never ever surrender to the woke mob! Florida is where woke goes to die!" pic.twitter.com/hgnEAyOqj7
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) November 9, 2022
Under the policy, tenured faculty members would be subject to review every five years based on several factors, most notably their cooperation with the Stop WOKE law which aims to keep colleges from “indoctrinating” students with divisive concepts including race and white privilege. Those who receive poor reviews could face termination.
While the law states that political ideology is not a cause for termination, the bill has instructors on their toes.
“As a public policy student in the School of International and Public Affairs, I expect my classes to cover sensitive topics like race,” wrote Dioslyn Oliva, a contributing writer for PantherNOW, a student news publication at Florida International University. “Yet the new House Bill 7 could restrict that, causing our professors to walk on eggshells in their lectures.”
In an email sent to students and employees at FIU, President Kenneth A. Jessell explained the restrictions of the law.
“In brief, the revisions to section 1000.05, Florida Statutes, provide that an educational institution, including FIU, may not subject any student or employee to training or instruction that ‘espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such student or employee to believe; and of eight ‘specified concepts,'” the email reads. “The concepts relate to race, color, sex, and national origin.”
“Students curious enough to want to learn about the subject will not get their money’s worth as the contents of their courses will most likely be censored, therefore their education will be incomplete,” wrote Oliva.
At the University of South Florida, Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, chairperson of the faculty senate, compiled a list of legislative bills with breakdowns of each to raise awareness and understanding around them. Included in the list is a statement on academic freedom and tenure, which serves as a caution for those who are strong proponents of free speech, especially in education.
“Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject,” the statement reads. “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations… they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”
According to an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Schneider said USF faculty believe their voices have been stripped from them.
“The strongest reaction we’ve had from the STEM faculty and business faculty who actually could work in industry or business and make two, three, four times the amount of money but remain in higher education because of tenure giving them academic freedom and the ability to pursue lines of research that they wouldn’t be able to if they worked for a company,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s going to be damaging across the board.”
She concluded by stating that the law is an overreach.
“Tenure does not protect the dead weight… Tenure doesn’t guarantee a job; it guarantees intellectual space,” she said.
A final vote on the bill is expected to take place in 2023.