Nearly Half of Florida Professors Want to Leave the State, Survey Finds

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By Giselle Balido

September 8, 2023

Following the passage of legislation that undermines higher education, nearly half of Florida faculty members surveyed said they’re planning to look for jobs in other states within the next year.  

A growing concern over political involvement in higher education has fueled a desire in faculty members in Florida and three other states to seek employment elsewhere, according to a new survey.

The survey revealed that nearly half (46%) of the 642 respondents in Florida are planning to look for jobs in other states within the next year, while 28% percent said they’d already interviewed for a position out of state. Additionally, 85% said they would not encourage a graduate student or faculty in another state to come to Florida, and about 36% plan to leave academia.

The survey—which was sponsored by the United Faculty of Florida union, the Texas Faculty Association union, and the state conferences of the American Association of University Professors in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas—reveals deep dissatisfaction among faculty in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed laws targeting diversity initiatives and restricting academic freedom, specifically trying to limit how professors can teach about racism, sexism, and oppression.

“The brain drain that we’ve been concerned about, and the trends that we’ve been wondering about, based on what we’ve seen here, are certainly happening,” Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, the statewide faculty union, told the Tampa Bay Times.

The reasons cited by respondents across all four states for wanting to leave include:

  • Academic freedom concerns (71%) 
  • The ban on diversity initiatives and/or LGBTQ+ issues (58%)
  • Their pay (68%)

RELATED: ‘Terrifying’ and ‘Draconian’: DeSantis Bill to Reform College Education Could Destroy It

 

DeSantis’ War on Education

Some respondents directly pointed to DeSantis’ laws as a key factor to look for jobs in other states.
“The vagueness of laws and the lack of case-law precedent means that I have no idea whether what I teach contravenes a law or doesn’t,” a tenured professor in Florida wrote in an open-ended response to the survey, first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education. “I teach in philosophy and the humanities, and most of my courses deal with questions that are now forbidden to ask. The threat to academic freedom is extreme.”
Some professors in Florida also said they’d been told to remove their readings from public syllabi, while others reported receiving threats from students about material they were teaching.
The overhaul of New College—a liberal arts school—that began when DeSantis appointed a conservative majority to its board of trustees and abolished its diversity, equity and inclusion programs further underscores the governor’s broad effort to reshape education at various levels.

The school has since seen an exodus of professors and is now facing faculty shortages.

It’s not just college-level educators who are struggling under Florida’s new laws, either. Public school educators across the state are grappling with limitations put in place by DeSantis’ education policies that include a ban on discussing issues of gender or sexual preference in grades K-12. 

 

RELATED: Teaching in DeSantis’ Florida Has Become Impossible, Educators Say

 

DeSantis’ legislative assault on education isn’t just impacting professors. One in 8 graduating high school students across the state say they won’t attend a public college due to DeSantis’ education policies, according to a March Intelligent.com survey of over 1,000 Florida students, including 783 who were still in high school at the time and 364 current undergrads. 

Uncomfortable with Freedom

For Democratic State Representative Yvonne Hinson (D-Gainesville), who for 14 years served as principal of an elementary magnet school, the desire of educators to leave the state is simply the result of DeSantis and the GOP-majority Legislature’s efforts to eradicate diversity and freedom in academia. 

“They are uncomfortable with quite a few things, and the things they are uncomfortable with, they seem to be bold enough and just inhumane enough to try to make a law to keep it from existing in front of them,” Hinson told Floricua earlier this year. 

Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z American to be elected to Congress, agrees. As he told Floricua in March, “[DeSantis] has completely taken over schools. We saw what happened at New College of Florida. He’s using the state, using the power that the people who voted for him gave him, to silence people he disagrees with. And that’s not American. It’s literally the book definition of fascism.”

 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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