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Florida governor proposes law to review tenure of university professors

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, has introduced a bill that makes it more difficult for professors at the state’s 12 public universities to retain tenure. After working for a university for a certain length of time and under certain contractual conditions, professors in the US can earn the right to hold their position permanently—a status known as tenure, which has been granted by higher education institutions in the country since the 1940s to protect professors from political interference and to ensure freedom in teaching and research.

The new bill establishes that tenured professors will be subject to a review by the Florida public university system’s Board of Governors every five years, with a focus on metrics such as targets achieved, productivity, and appraisals. Of the 17 members of Florida’s Board of Governors, 14 are appointed by the State Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

Mathematician Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), told online magazine The Scientist that the five-year review includes the possibility of dismissal and calls the bill “a clear attack on academic freedom.”

When introducing the bill, DeSantis criticized what he called “lifetime jobs” for faculty at the state’s universities. “It’s all about trying to make these institutions more in line with the state’s priorities, and frankly, the priorities of the parents,” he said. House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who presides over Florida’s House of Representatives, said the legislation is a way to combat “indoctrination” and prevent professors from pushing their “radical agenda.”