Proposed New Florida Law Would Place the “Most Draconian and Censorious” Restrictions on Higher Education in the Country, Says PEN America
If Passed, the Law Would Virtually End Academic Freedom, Ban Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives on Florida’s Public Campuses
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(NEW YORK) – A sweeping legislative proposal taking aim at gender studies, critical race theory, diversity and inclusion initiatives, tenure, and faculty hiring review amounts to “the most draconian and censorious restrictions” on public colleges and universities in the country, PEN America said today.
HB 999, filed by Rep. Alex Andrade, mirrors recent proposals by Gov. Ron DeSantis and would ban all gender studies and critical race theory majors and minors, as well as any majors and minors that teach “divisive concepts” as defined by last year’s “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”
“HB 999 would enact perhaps the most draconian and censorious restrictions on public colleges and universities in the country,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. “It would virtually end academic freedom, shared governance, and institutional autonomy at all Florida public colleges and universities, replacing them with an environment dominated by fear, with free expression and open inquiry hiding in the shadows, perpetually under siege.”
The bill would centralize control of core curricula and university mission statements in the Board of Governors, a group of political appointees; ban all diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and the use of diversity statements or “Critical Race Theory rhetoric” in hiring processes; enable boards of trustees to initiate a “tenure review” of any faculty member at any time; and empower presidents and boards of trustees to hire any faculty members they want, regardless of whether they have been recommended by faculty hiring committees or even applied for the job.
In addition, It would also require that all general education courses must promote “the values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic” through “traditional, historically accurate” coursework; and would ban courses in general education curricula “based on unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content,” as defined by political appointees.
“The value of higher education lies in its ability to bring together people of disparate viewpoints and experience for open and honest conversations,” Young said. “By handing politicians and political appointees the power to rewrite college mission statements, ban majors and programs, and hire and fire faculty according to political whims, HB 999 would silence those conversations and enact an unprecedented and unparalleled regime of government interference in public education. For advocates of free expression and higher education, opposing this bill is of paramount importance.”
About PEN America
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.