A New College of Florida professor who was denied tenure by the Board of Trustees has filed a lawsuit—along with the United Faculty of Florida—against the board and the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees higher education in the state. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a recent state law that limits arbitration, News Service of Florida reported.
Plaintiff Hugo Viera-Vargas was one of five faculty members denied tenure by NCF’s Board of Trustees in April, despite receiving approval at every other point in the process. Trustees cited “extraordinary circumstances” in the tenure denial as the college undergoes major changes driven by a new board majority appointed by Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who has directed members to push NCF in a conservative direction. The board has complied by ousting former president Patricia Okker and installing DeSantis ally Richard Corcoran as interim president.
Viera-Vargas, a professor of Caribbean/Latin American Studies and Music, appealed the tenure denial, but his appeal was reportedly shot down; Corcoran cited a state law passed earlier this year—SB 266—that limits arbitration of faculty grievances.
The lawsuit argues that “the arbitration ban curtails Viera-Vargas’s academic freedom and forces him to engage in self-censorship,” and that he was denied tenure, in part, because Corcoran disagrees with “certain subjects” that he teaches. A faculty webpage notes race is part of his research area.
UFF and Viera-Vargas are seeking an injunction, arguing that SB 266 is unconstitutional.
NCF did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed on the lawsuit.