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A wave of tenured professors leaving their highly coveted positions say the DeSantis administration is the reason they're leaving Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives his State of the State address in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 7, 2023.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives his State of the State address in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 7, 2023.

Phil Sears/Associated Press

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ushered in conservative education reforms through the state.
  • But the political climate has led some tenured university professors to leave the state, per The Times.
  • The state has long attracted top scholars to its research institutions. But politics has dissuaded some candidates.

Professors from across the country have long been lured to Florida's public colleges and universities, with the educators attracted to the research opportunities, student bodies, and the warm weather.

But for a swath of liberal-leaning professors, many of them holding highly coveted tenured positions, they've felt increasingly out of place in the Sunshine State. And some of them are pointing to the conservative administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as the reason for their departures, according to The New York Times.

DeSantis, who was elected to the governorship in 2018 and was easily reelected last fall, has over the course of his tenure 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 current process by which tenure is awarded, and with a largely compliant GOP-controlled legislature, he's imposed conservative education reforms across the state.

One such target has been the dismantling of diversity and equity initiatives at public universities, which for years had been a tool not only to recruit minority students but one that helped foster inclusive environments for many students, especially those who were the first in their immediate families to attend college.

But for many professors who came to the state either before DeSantis took office or right as he assumed the governorship, the current political climate simply became untenable for them to remain in the classroom.

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar who specializes in tax policy, was recruited to the University of Florida College of Law in 2019 in a tenured position, a huge get for the school.

Now, four years later, Buchanan has decided to head to Toronto to become a visiting professor.

In a recent Justia article, Buchanan wrote that Florida Republicans "have shown in every way possible that they want to get rid of people like me," criticizing their "increasingly open hostility to professors and to higher education."

"In that sense, it is fair to describe my situation as one in which 'the other guys won,'" he added. (He'll take a sabbatical from UF through June 2024, and said he expects to be tapped as Professor Emeritus next year.)

The Times spoke with a dozen academics from a range of fields who have decided to leave Florida's public colleges or are in the process of doing so, with many headed to Democratic-led states. They said Florida remains a home for an array of top academic leaders in their fields, but opined that DeSantis' policies are unsustainable for both academics and students.

Such sentiments are not universal among the university community at-large, though.

Sarah Lynne, the chair-elect of the University of Florida's faculty senate, told The Times that while some professors have left the state, politics is generally not the defining reason.

"Florida isn't really 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 amazing students, so we're staying."

Data released by the University of Florida showed that overall turnover at the institution inched up from 7% in 2021 to 9.3% in 2023, according to The Times.

University of Florida law professor Danaya C. Wright told The Times that several job candidates have pulled back their interest in moving to the state.

"We have seen more people pull their applications, or just say, 'no, I'm not interested — it's Florida,'" she told the newspaper.

Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist tapped by DeSantis to become a trustee of New College of Florida, hailed the faculty departures.

"To me, this is a net gain for Florida," he told The Times in a statement, slamming diversity and equity programs and what he said was "partisan activism" from professors supportive of such initiatives.

Read the original article on Business Insider