Being held accountable is commonplace in work and normal life, but apparently, Florida professors are unhappy with the idea of accountability.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law which creates a five-year review of Florida college and university professors to evaluate their performance. The bill, called the Senate Bill 7044, was passed by the Republican-majority state legislature by a 22-15 vote in the state senate and 77-40 vote in the state house of representatives.
DeSantis told the media, “We need to make sure the faculty are held accountable and that they don’t just have tenure forever without having any type of ways to hold them accountable or evaluate what they’re doing.” The governor said that the law is the “most significant tenure reform” law on the books because tenure is often abused by political ideologues.
He affirmed, “Tenure was there to protect people so that they could do ideas that maybe would cause them to lose their job or whatever — academic freedom.” DeSantis added, “Now you’re gonna be in a situation where, OK, if the productivity is not there, if you’re not adding anything, then you can go your separate ways.”
The law will go into effect on July 1, 2022 and the review of tenured faculty will be conducted by the Board of Governors.
Tenure is the system where professors achieve almost-permanent employment status, which conservatives decry as unjust and unfair considering that these tenured professors’ salaries are paid by taxpayers.
But college professors immediately criticized the law as unfairly targeting professors and academic free speech in the name of political interference. One such professor, Emilio Bruna, tweeted on social media that he is considering leaving the Sunshine State. Bruna said, “I’ve never seriously contemplated working anywhere else. Until today. And solely because of decisions made by the Governor and Legislature. I’m guessing I’m not alone, which means the future of Florida’s state universities – and hence of the state itself – could be bleak.”
Bruna is a professor of tropical ecology and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Another professor, according to Fox News, said that faculty recruitment and retention will be difficult. Megan McVay, who teaches as an assistant professor of health education and behavior, tweeted, “If Florida messes with tenure, it seems obvious that they will lose out on hiring and retaining the best faculty, and it will be a downward slide from there.”
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is a membership association of academics, objected to the Florida law and called it a “relentless crusade.”
Yet, despite the outcry from Florida faculty members, Florida remains as one of the hottest real estate markets because of its family-friendly and pro-business climate. Protests and outrage from academics may not sway the typical Florida voter or taxpayer, considering professors typically earn more than the state’s median income level.