The National Association of Scholars is delighted that the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors has passed a new tenure review regulation. We wrote in favor of a draft version of this regulation in December 2022, and we believe Florida’s public higher education system will benefit from its passage.
Our December comment included some cautions. Many universities around the country are now integrating radical activism into their definition of professional conduct, academic responsibilities, and performance. If this is done in Florida, it raises the possibility that tenured professors at the University of Florida could be fired for failing to perform a sufficient amount of radical activism. We urged the Board of Governors to preclude this possibility by drafting and entering into the State University System of Florida’s Regulations three performance metrics for faculty, which may not be overridden by any departmental or collegiate definitions of professional conduct, academic responsibilities, and performance: Intellectual Diversity, Professorial Neutrality, and Nondiscrimination. We still urge that Florida’s Board of Governors do this, to prevent an abuse of the new regulation.
We support Florida’s tenure reform within our broader mission to reform higher education. As NAS President Peter Wood noted in June 2022,
What was once designed to ensure that faculty members could be free of pressure from the anti-intellectual mob has become instead the weapon of an intellectual mob to attack the freedom of anyone who dares disagree with the regnant political positions with the academy. Tenure was once urged for the institution to protect the faculty member’s pursuit of the truth against those who would impose political conformity. It has become the blunt force of conformity itself, often ranged against the freedom of thought and expression in society at large.
We favor tenure reform because tenure in our corrupted system of higher education has become a weapon against intellectual freedom, not a defense of it.
We may at a later stage debate exactly how tenure reform should be implemented, when we can choose between models in a dozen states. For now, effective tenure reform is solely in Florida—and it will have to establish itself against the higher education establishment’s usual weapons of sabotage, such as lawfare, judicial nullification, noncompliance, and “activist” rent-a-mobs. We urge everyone who supports the restoration of higher education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship to support the Florida Board’s new tenure reform.