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Gov. DeSantis Aims to Reform Higher Education In Florida

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a higher education reform bill Tuesday requiring changes on endless faculty tenure at colleges and universities.

Governor DeSantis says it 'removes a stanglehold' and 'adds common sense' while Florida higher education officials are calling the state's latest move 'a political game'.

At the beginning of Tuesday's senate bill 7044 signing, Governor DeSantis addressed changes to Florida's colleges and universities.

"We need to make sure that faculty are held accountable, that they don't just have tenure forever without having any type of ways to hold them accountable or evaluate what they're doing," said DeSantis. The new law allows the state board of governors to apply a review every five years for tenured faculty addressing performances. Tenured faculty already participate in annual reviews.

Desantis says the bill will dismantle an accreditation monopoly.

"The role that these accreditation agencies play – I don't even know where they come from. I mean, they basically are just effectively self-anointed. They have an ornate amount of power to shape what it going on at these Universities," said DeSantis.

United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard says the bill puts control of thoughts and actions above quality of education.

"This bill is trying to score cheap political points at the expense of the future of Florida's over a million higher education students across the state," said Gothard. He says tenure provides stability.

"Anytime you start to erode those firewalls between higher education and politics, you're opening up a scenario where learning where learning is no longer about the advancement of society. They [then] exist to only serve the person or the party in power. And don't know about you, but that sounds a lot to me like communism," he said. "A new Governor, a new legislator, a new president can't come in and decide, 'well, I'm conservative, I want to fire all the Liberal faculty and I'm going to hire conservative faculty. And then a few years later, a liberal person comes in and says I want to fire all the conservatives," said Gothard while highlighting that the State should be focusing more on academic freedom. "A faculty member can teach, research, and speak honestly and truthfully about subject matters they're experts in without worrying about the political whims of the moment. This is good for the institution and it's good for the students of Florida who have the fullest amount of choice about whatever subject they want to study and become and expert in and take into the economy as a young graduate."

In a statement, Gothard says in part "The UFF will continue to stand firmly opposed in every way to attempts by the governor and certain legislators to harm our state's colleges and universities... [and] ensure that higher education remains free from undue political influence."

Click here to view a summary of Senate Bill 7044.


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