Florida Legislature Seeks Conservative Stamp on Higher Ed

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tags: Florida, higher education, academic freedom

The conservative effort to reshape higher education has dug a deep foothold in Florida. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday approved a bill that requires public colleges to seek new accreditors and allows the Board of Governors to call for post-tenure review every five years.

The legislation follows another bill, passed on Tuesday, that allows public colleges to conceal the names of presidential candidates until finalists are chosen. Both bills will now go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who is expected to sign them into law.

The Florida bills deal with what some consider the minutiae of academe, not the headline-grabbing measures meant to directly bar the instruction of controversial topics on campus, now being considered in other states. Supporters in the Florida Legislature describe the measures as common-sense reforms meant to improve student outcomes, provide more accountability to tenured faculty members, and encourage quality applicants for leadership.

State Rep. Amber Mariano, a Republican, said the state’s public colleges should be able to find the accreditor that best fits their needs — as long as it’s not their current accreditor, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges.

But national higher-education experts and faculty members in Florida say the legislation is part of an attack on bedrock principles that preserve the academic autonomy of faculty members and institutions.

Post-tenure review “undermines tenure and academic freedom when it can result in faculty members getting fired without normal due process that accompanies tenure,” said Gregory Scholtz, director of the department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance at the American Association of University Professors.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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