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FIRE defends academic freedom in comment to Florida Board of Governors

University of Florida Gator statue at Ben Hill Griffin football Stadium

University of College / Shutterstock.com

Statue of an alligator at University of Florida. Last week, FIRE filed a formal comment with the Florida Board of Governors on a proposed regulation that requires tenured faculty at Florida’s public universities to undergo a comprehensive post-tenure review every five years.

Last week, FIRE submitted a formal comment to the Florida Board of Governors on a proposed regulation that requires tenured faculty at Florida’s public universities to undergo a comprehensive post-tenure review every five years. FIRE’s comment details serious free speech and due process concerns about the proposed regulation, which is now open for public comment through Dec. 9

The proposed regulations are the result of the Post-Tenure Review Act, enacted earlier this year, which permits the board to issue regulations governing post-tenure review and provides criteria the board may adopt.

FIRE does not take a position on the merits of post-tenure review. But we recognize that tenure shields faculty from institutional repercussions for their scholarship, teaching, research, or views. As we wrote in our comment: “Tenure has been instrumental to ensuring faculty — especially those with disfavored or dissenting views — remain free to teach, research, and speak publicly on matters within their expertise and on matters of public concern without repercussions aimed at stifling their unpopular perspectives.”

Stop WOKE plaintiffs Novoa and Rechek

VICTORY: After FIRE lawsuit, court halts enforcement of key provisions of the Stop WOKE Act limiting how Florida professors can teach about race, sex

Press Release

A federal court halted enforcement of key parts of Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” in the state’s public universities, declaring that the law violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.

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One of FIRE’s central concerns is the proposed regulations’ requirement that faculty be evaluated on “[a]ny violation of section 1000.05(4), Florida Statutes,” the law branded by supporters as the “Stop WOKE Act.” Students and professors represented by FIRE and others filed constitutional challenges to the higher education provisions in that statute earlier this year. Those efforts paid off: Two weeks ago, a federal court halted the enforcement of key provisions of the Stop WOKE Act in the state’s public universities, declaring that the law violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty. As FIRE argues in our comment, the board must not include compliance with this unconstitutional statute in its post-review criteria.

FIRE’s full analysis of the proposed regulations can be read in its entirety here. We hope the Florida Board of Governors will heed our advice and amend the proposed language to afford faculty the requisite legal protections during post-tenure review. As we wrote in our comment, “If tenure is to retain its value, Florida must ensure its policies affirmatively protect the academic freedom and expressive rights of faculty.” 

Again, public comments may be submitted until Dec. 9. Those wishing to submit comments may find instructions on how to do so here.

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