Public higher education in Florida has come under fire in a number of ways in recent years. The state legislature has restricted the teaching of some controversial subjects, conducted political litmus examinations for faculties, and placed professors under additional post-tenure scrutiny. Universities themselves have put pressure on faculty-free speech to comply with state laws.
But the documents show that the worst is yet to come.
A draft law recently unveiled from the Florida Spring Legislative Assembly reveals Governor Ron Descent’s plan to consolidate power on state boards run by political appointees, to make colleges more dependent on money controlled by the state legislature, to impose restrictions on what is taught at Florida colleges. Universities, and the power to make specific appointments deprive university presidents.
The Florida draft law was first reported by Jason Garcia, a freelance journalist who unveiled the plans, which resulted in a request for public records from Desantis and state legislators from the January to March session of the legislature. Although no major proposals were implemented during the session, the documents provide a clear picture of how Florida lawmakers envisioned fundamentally rebuilding public higher education in the state.
Critics of the proposal warn that the plan threatens academic independence and institutional autonomy for Florida state universities. Some see this as a terrible warning of what is on the legal horizon.
The draft law proposes to give more authority to the board of governors to dismiss university presidents, proposed budget vetoes and independent staff. It seeks to limit the power of the board to delegate administrative powers.
Although each of the 12 member institutions of the Florida State University system has its own board, those institutions fall under the Board of Governors, of which 14 of the 17 members are elected by dissent.
The draft law also aims to limit the ability of boards to raise student fees, making universities more reliant on state funds controlled by Talahasi, giving lawmakers a chance to say more about how that money is used. Another element suggests that universities that violate certain state laws will be penalized financially by reducing funding. Garcia reported last week that a version of the draft law “specifically cuts to universities and colleges that do not participate in Dissent’s ‘intellectual diversity’ survey” and “another version of the bill would force university and college systems to submit reports াকে to governors and legislatures every three months.” ‘Assure’ that schools are not violating state laws.
According to the curriculum requirements in the documents obtained by Garcia, general education curricula must “promote the philosophical foundations of Western civilization”, including the study of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Amendment and Federalist Papers.
The draft law states that “general education curricula may not suppress or distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, such as critical ethnography, or defines American history as opposed to the formation of a new nation.” Has become a universal policy. “
Critical race theory, once a vague academic concept, has become a staple for conservatives who accuse colleges of misleading students about American history. The critical race theory, or a distorted version of it, has been attacked by numerous state legislatures.
Under the HB7, or Stop Walk Act, passed earlier this year, Florida colleges and universities could lose performance-oriented funding for teaching certain “divisive concepts” such as the CRT.
The draft law aims to give boards more power over appointments: “Each university’s board of trustees is responsible for appointing teachers. The President may make recommendations for appointment to the Board; However, the president or board is not bound by the recommendations or opinions of faculty or other individuals or groups, “the document states.” The board may delegate its appointing powers to the president;
Proposals have made the rounds in the Florida Higher Aid Circle, the response has been muted. Dr. half a dozen universities Inside higher ed Contact, someone provide a comment. Neither the Florida Board of Governors nor the Press Office of Dissenters responded to the investigation.
In half a dozen faculty senate Inside higher ed Contact, only two statement statements.
“I am deeply concerned about the report. This is my third day as the Faculty Senate Chair and, as I begin my term, I am dedicated to defending the independence of this institution so that it serves as an important source of knowledge and research for the people of Florida and the world. ”Amanda Fallin, University of Florida Chair of the Faculty Senate, said in an email Friday.
Eric Chicken, president of the faculty senate at Florida State University, said in an email that “the twelve institutions of the state university system are quite different from each other in size, mission and focus” and that centralized control was not appropriate or effective.
“Recruitment is best handled by academics at each university,” he added. “Each state university department and college differs significantly from each other in terms of skills, training and performance expectations. Teachers in these departments are best qualified to recommend appointments to their presidents through their deans. No. On the other hand, university presidents are immersed in their local academic environment on a daily and intensive basis, and many of them are former faculty members who are well aware of the need to recruit new faculty.
Chicken further noted that “academic freedom is essential to a university’s mission.”
High-level observers outside Florida have also expressed skepticism about the plan.
Henry Stover, president and CEO of the Association of Governing Boards, said in an email that he was “concerned about the increasing politicization of higher education across the country,” noting that “effective board management requires the board’s independence from unwanted external influences.” He added that board members need to be committed to the organization – not to outside influences.
“Governing boards must respect the distinction between the role of the board in overseeing the affairs of the organization and the role of the administration in managing the activities of the organization. Governing boards select and motivate the chief executive and they work with the administration to determine the strategic priorities, policies and finances of the system or organization. They are responsible for ensuring that desired results are consistent with priorities. In Florida, those responsibilities are shared between the System Board of Governors and the Institutional Governing Boards, “Stower said.” Monitoring, and changing creditors will not protect organizations from potential loss of verification and recognition – and therefore federal funding. “
Sandra Barringer, a professor of higher education at Southern Methodist University and an expert on the Governing Board of Higher Aid, described Dissantis’ proposals as unusual. Barringer was particularly concerned about the way university presidents, who are responsible for day-to-day activities, promote the boards responsible for long-term strategic planning. Transferring these responsibilities blurs the lines of governance, Barringer said.
“It simply came to our notice then [faculty hiring] The board has to be covered, “Barringer added. “And I think it’s going to have a potential cooling effect, for example, with the Florida University Presidential Inquiry ৷ it could affect the pool of candidates for that position.”
Barrett Taylor, a counseling and higher education professor at the University of North Texas who studies higher education policy, organization, and governance, suggests that these proposals would compromise the institutional independence of members of the Florida State University system.
Taylor said the draft law, even if it is not enacted and signed into law, is important because it indicates “what a political alliance is considering at a given time.”
In Florida, this particular law sends the message that higher education is not trustworthy and needs to be radically changed. Taylor explained that the draft law was like a message to voters, a cry for a culture-war rally, as if it were a real effort to rebuild higher education.
“I think sowing the seeds of disbelief is related to itself, even if we still don’t know what the law will be,” Taylor said.
Although much of the draft law has not been enacted, some groups are warning that these proposals indicate what is going to happen to Florida higher education in the next legislative session.
“The special proposals in the article have not been passed in this legislature, but similar efforts will be made next year. It gives us insight into their next steps, “said Florida United Faculty, Statewide Faculty Union, Tweeted Thursday.