FIRE statement on Governor DeSantis’ higher education proposals – Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

FIRE urges Florida lawmakers to remember that the First Amendment protects Americans of all political backgrounds by setting crucial limits on the power that politicians may wield within higher education. As FIRE has made clear in our ongoing litigation against Florida’s Stop WOKE Act, lawmakers cannot ban ideas from college classrooms. 

On Prohibiting DEI Statements 

Our public colleges and universities must remain havens for intellectual freedom. For years, FIRE has fought the imposition of de facto ideological loyalty oaths on university students and faculty nationwide. As the Supreme Court of the United States made clear more than a half-century ago, restricting who may teach and learn on the basis of political viewpoint runs counter to the animating purpose of our public colleges and universities. To that end, FIRE supports prohibiting the use of all political litmus tests in admissions, hiring, and promotions. We caution that efforts to eliminate loyalty oaths must be careful not to trade one orthodoxy for another, and we await further details on the proposal. 

On New Personnel Powers for Public University Presidents 

Giving university presidents expansive power over hiring, firing, and post-tenure review jeopardizes academic freedom. The more power that one individual has to call the shots on campus, the easier it is for political forces — be they donors, politicians, students, or activists — to dictate the range of acceptable ideas and voices. Administrators with more authority will be pressured to use that authority in ways that today’s political climate cannot forecast. 

As always, FIRE stands ready to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to ensure that our nation’s campuses are free from censorship and indoctrination. Higher education is in desperate need of innovation and experimentation, but any such attempts must not endanger student and faculty rights. 

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DeSantis Takes On the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand – The New York Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, as he positions himself for a run for president next year, has become an increasingly vocal culture warrior, vowing to take on liberal orthodoxy and its champions, whether they are at Disney, on Martha’s Vineyard or in the state’s public libraries.

But his crusade has perhaps played out most dramatically in classrooms and on university campuses. He has banned instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, limited what schools and employers can teach about racism and other aspects of history and rejected math textbooks en masse for what the state ca…….