Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference this morning to discuss his proposed higher education reforms. His office also released a statement and a handout summarizing his proposals to combat “academic discrimination and indoctrination.”
For several of these proposals, the details will matter—a lot. Nonetheless, the bare outline is significant, even if some of these items wind up looking better, or much worse, as they get translated into policy.
DeSantis indicated that he will be making a couple of relevant budget recommendations to the legislature. They include money for New College (which now has a new set of trustees with a gubernatorial mandate), new money for civics institutes that were inspired by the James Madison Program at Princeton, and $100 million for faculty retention and recruitment.
Other proposals call for more statutory reforms of Florida higher ed. They include
- New Western Civ requirement that might or might not include some legislative intrusion into how such courses are taught
- eliminate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracies and initiatives. A big deal but remains to be seen if that will include faculty-driven programming or classes
- allow university presidents to initiate off-cycle post-tenure review of faculty. Remains to be seen whether that will alter the process or substance of the current post-tenure review system. If it only changes the timing, then perhaps not a big deal
- allow presidents and boards of trustees to hire faculty without “faculty interference.” Would be a massive change in how serious American universities operate. Giant big red warning flags on this one.
- eliminate diversity statements for faculty hiring. Consistent with what the Academic Freedom Alliance has called on universities to do.
- require research universities to spend at least $50 million per year on research related to STEM and business.
Will undoubtedly shape Republican debates on higher ed, even if the full package does not get adopted in Florida or gets significantly modified on the path to adoption. Will bear careful watching.