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HomeGeneralFlorida Professors Say DeSantis’ Administration Is Why They’re Leaving

Florida Professors Say DeSantis’ Administration Is Why They’re Leaving

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A picture of Florida State Governor Ron DeSantis
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Professors nationwide have been moving to Florida’s public colleges and universities. The research opportunities, student body, and warm weather attracted educators to the state. However, many professors holding highly coveted tenured positions have felt increasingly out of place in the Sunshine State, causing them to leave.

The NY Times also reported that they accused Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration as the reason for their departures. DeSantis, Florida State governor since 2018, has worked to put a conservative imprint on a state where moderation was once a driving force in state politics. 

In recent years, DeSantis has railed against the processes his administration met. He has imposed conservative education reforms statewide with a largely compliant GOP-controlled legislature.

ALSO READ: Why Are Florida Retirees Fleeing the State?

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One such target has been dismantling diversity and equity initiatives at public universities. For years, the initiatives have been a tool to recruit minority students. In addition, it has helped foster inclusive environments for students, especially those who were the first in their immediate families to attend college.

However, the current political climate became unbearable for professors who came to the state before or after DeSantis assumed office. Hence, they couldn’t remain in the classroom. DeSantis had just taken office in 2019 when Neil H. Buchanan, a prominent economist and tax law scholar from George Washington University, joined the University of Florida.

Just four years later, Dr. Buchanan has given up his tenured job and headed north to teach in Toronto. In a recent column on a legal commentary website, he accused Florida of “open hostility to professors and higher education more generally.”

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In addition, Buchanan wrote that Florida Republicans have shown that they want to get rid of people like him. He added, “In that sense, it is fair to describe my situation as one in which ‘the other guys won.” Consequently, The Times interviewed a dozen academics from different fields who have left Florida public universities or given their notice. 

They emphasized that hundreds of top academics remain in Florida, a state known for its solid and affordable public university system. However, they raised concerns that DeSantis’ policies are unsustainable for scholars and students.

Conversely, such sentiments are not universal among the university community at large. Sarah Lynne, the chair-elect of the University of Florida’s faculty senate, told The Times that while some professors had left the state, politics is generally not the defining reason.

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“Florida isn’t a unique scenario when it comes to the politicization of higher education,” Lynne told the newspaper. “It’s a beautiful state to live in, and we have excellent students, so we’re staying.”

According to data from the University of Florida, the institution’s overall turnover increased from 7% to 9.3% in 2023. Also, Danaya C. Wright, a University of Florida law professor, revealed that several professors refused to move to the state. “We have seen more people pull their applications or just say, ‘No, I’m not interested – it’s Florida,” she said.

Conversely, Christopher Rufo, an activist DeSantis tapped to become a trustee of New College of Florida, hailed the faculty departures. In an interview with The Times, he said, “To me, this is a net gain for Florida.” He slammed the diversity and equity programs, accusing the professors of supporting “partisan activism initiatives.”

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