Florida's Higher Ed Policy Push Gets Bigger

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tags: Florida, Ron DeSantis

Standing at a podium labeled “Higher Education Reform,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Tuesday announced a wide-ranging plan to shake up the state’s colleges. The plan includes a Western-civilizations-based core curriculum; greater authority for boards and college presidents to hire and fire even tenured faculty members; and other proposals that would, if enacted, encroach on the autonomy of the state’s public colleges.

“We’re centering higher education on integrity of the academics, excellence, pursuit of truth, teaching kids to think for themselves, not trying to impose an orthodoxy,” DeSantis said during a news conference to announce the plan.

“It’s re-establishing public control and public authority over the public universities,” Christopher F. Rufo, a conservative activist whom DeSantis recently appointed to one Florida college’s board, said during the same conference.

DeSantis’s proposed higher-ed legislative package adds to his already aggressive posture toward higher education, which he has escalated in the new year. His actions in recent weeks, coupled with Tuesday’s announcement, stake out an expansive vision for state intervention at public colleges. If realized, it would leave few areas of the enterprise untouched by government regulation or scrutiny.

Meanwhile, evidence of resistance is arising at at least one university after a month during which Florida’s Republican leaders suggested they might strip public campuses of their diversity efforts, curriculum on certain topics such as critical race theory, and health care for transgender students.

DeSantis’s proposals include requiring that students at the colleges take certain core courses “grounded in actual history, the actual philosophy that has shaped Western civilization.” He also wants to allow certain recently established research centers at Florida International UniversityFlorida State University, and the University of Florida to operate more independently. The centers were modeled after Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, DeSantis said, and he wants at least two of them to create K-12 curricula.

Last year, the state passed a bill that allowed Florida’s Board of Governors to require professors to go through post-tenure review every five years. On Tuesday, DeSantis proposed giving college presidents more power over faculty hiring and allowing presidents and boards of trustees to call for a post-tenure review of a faculty member “at any time with cause.”

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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