Protect University Tenure

On November 9, 2022, Florida’s Board of Governors (BoG), which oversees Florida’s 12 universities, proposed Regulation 10.003 “Post-Tenure Faculty Review”. This alarming regulation attacks tenure, academic freedom, and the constitutional autonomy of public higher education institutions. If enacted, this regulation will affect more than 350,000 students and approximately 16,000 faculty members, more than half of which are tenured or tenure earning, in the Florida State University System. Unchallenged, this regulation will devastate the quality of higher education in Florida, including harm to research and the recruiting and retention of faculty. It could also serve as a trigger and blueprint for similar attacks nationwide.

The proposed regulation effectively eliminates tenure, linking tenured faculty members’ employment to recent legislation, FL Statute 1000.05(4) aka Stop WOKE Act, that claims to fight “indoctrination on college campuses” and censors faculty speech in the classroom, specifically regarding systemic racism and race and gender discrimination. As the Florida ACLU stated, “The bill’s vague prohibitions constitute government overreach and censorship that will chill speech and critical discourse in employment and education.” 

Contrary to popular belief, tenure is not “job for life.” Florida faculty can be dismissed for cause. Further, sustained performance evaluations of tenured faculty already exist in the State University System, and all faculty are evaluated annually. The problem with the BoG’s proposed regulation is that it injects politics into the decision-making, removes checks and balances over administrator discretion, and dismisses the tried and tested authority of peer review. This enables the targeting of any tenured faculty member who disagrees with those in positions of power. Despite claims to the contrary, the proposed regulation is entirely the BoG’s choice, not decreed by statute; and its paltry reward component will not compensate for the harm to recruitment and retention of faculty, who are attracted to the profession because of the academic freedom that tenure was meant to provide, uninfluenced by the whims of politicians and bureaucrats.

Public education is a public good that must not be subjected to political influence, no matter who is in power. Tenure and academic freedom protect all academic pursuits equally, regardless of perceived political persuasion. Academic freedom, protected by tenure, “is the indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education,” according to the American Association of University Professors. The proposed regulation instead chills speech, damaging the quality of education available to students as faculty self-censor, change content and avoid discussion of potentially sensitive yet critically important topics so they do not run afoul of FL Statute 1000.05(4).   

Tenure and academic freedom are crucial in the classroom, crucial for the discovery of truth and the development of new and innovative ideas, crucial for the health of higher education in Florida, and crucial for democracy. This regulation will undermine the confidence and ability of students and graduates to think and act with agency, to shape the civic and economic life of the state and the nation. If you care about higher education in Florida, please sign this petition, which we will present to the Board of Governors. 

Take Action

For the first step in this campaign, we are asking every member of the higher education community to provide public comment on this proposed regulation. Providing public comment is simple, and you can easily participate by using the following steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the details of the policy by reading it here.

  2. Review the talking-points drafted by UFF leaders and members, which are designed to assist you in formulating your thoughts.

3. Use this template for guidance on writing your comment. Consider writing your comment in a separate document, then copying it into the website’s comment box.

4. Send your comment to the Board of Governors using their website. Scroll down to “Chapter 10: Miscellaneous Provisions,” then select the “Submit a Comment” link in the “Post-Tenure Faculty Review” box. If you do not see the “submit” button, you may need to zoom out on your browser.

5. Sign our petition!

6. Ask five of your colleagues, friends, family members, community allies, and local elected officials to also leave public comment on or to otherwise advocate against the regulation.

The deadline to leave public comment is extended to Friday, December 9th, 2022, so don’t delay! Leave your comment as soon as possible and encourage others to do so as well!

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