The American Association of University Professors released a report today saying Ron DeSantis’s words and actions “come from the same playbook of authoritarianism” as those of Donald Trump and the current leaders of China, India, Turkey and Hungary.
The document—the final version of a preliminary report the AAUP released May 24, the day the Florida governor announced his presidential run—expands upon the earlier findings from an AAUP special committee’s investigation into issues including threats to academic freedom, tenure and shared governance in Florida public universities during DeSantis’s governorship.
“During the dozens of interviews conducted by the special committee with faculty members across Florida, two sentiments came up frequently: the reality in Florida is ‘Orwellian,’ and Florida is the ‘canary in a coal mine,’” the report says. “Indeed, the threat from authoritarian politicians who use phrases like ‘Stop WOKE,’ ‘DEI bureaucracy,’ and ‘indoctrination’ to limit academic freedom while imposing their
worldview upon institutions of higher education cannot be overstated. Neither can the threat of Florida-style legislation spreading across the country.”
“But placing Florida in a national context is insufficient; the attack on academic freedom is part of an extensive assault on democracy worldwide,” the report concludes. “Florida and other states following suit are part of a global rise in right-wing, nationalistic political agendas that know well the power of a diminished sense of
citizenship, increased surveillance, and increased obedience to the state to control citizens for generations to come. They know well that access to knowledge, free inquiry, and education that employs a critical lens to understanding our past and present injustices are among the biggest threats to their dreams of a nation built for uplifting only certain races or religions.”
Jeremy T. Redfern, the governor’s press secretary, referred Inside Higher Ed to DeSantis’s higher education comments at a Tuesday news conference. DeSantis touted Florida public universities’ academic rankings, his “holding the line on tuition” and the elimination of “D, E and I.” He said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts were “very discriminatory, very divisive” and don’t judge individuals based on merit, and said “if you have Marxist professors leaving, that is a gain for the state of Florida.”