Academics Worry Ron DeSantis' Higher Education Legislation Will Have National Impact

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Freedom Tower on May 9, 2022 in Miami.
In recent years, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that changed college tenure systems, displaced Florida universities from commonly accepted accreditation practices, and enacted annual Viewpoint Diversity Surveys of both students and faculty. If the answers don't match the state's legislation, they risk losing funding.
"It used to be thought that a college campus was a place where you would be exposed to a lot of different ideas," DeSantis said at a news conference after he signed the law. “Unfortunately, it's now the norm that these are more intellectually repressive environments. They have orthodoxies that are promoted and other viewpoints are shunned or even repressed.”
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Republicans have long believed that colleges are places that unfairly advance liberal perspectives, leading to DeSantis' Stop WOKE Act, which regulates what schools and workplaces can teach about race and identity. The law went into effect on Friday and is already being challenged by Professor Robert Cassanello of the University of Central Florida.
Cassanello, who teaches courses in civil rights movements, slavery and reconstruction, says the law "limits his ability to teach these subjects accurately and completely." The state has asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
On Thursday, the board of governors of Florida's public university system pushed ahead with approving regulations to enforce the law, which could result in disciplinary action and termination for those who don't comply. Universities could also lose funding if they refuse to cooperate.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the DeSantis administration poses an existential threat to higher education in the state of Florida," said J. Andrew Gothard, the statewide president of the United Faculty of Florida and an associate professor in Florida Atlantic's English Department University of the Washington Post.
Others worry that universities and colleges will follow DeSantis' lead. Irene Mulvey, a math professor at Fairfield University, said Texas isn't far behind and that could foreshadow worse. "It's a trend in the larger culture wars ... where you see these politicians trying to throw red meat at the grassroots and stir people up."
Ron DeSantis
American politician

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