Recently proposed and passed legislation that targets tenure and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is having a chilling effect on the recruitment of faculty members and administrators in Florida and Texas, where some of the highest profile laws and bills of that type have been undertaken.
Not all of the proposed bills have become law yet, and the full extent to which candidates are being dissuaded from pursuing opportunities in the two states is difficult to calculate. But faculty and union leaders there say that would-be faculty members are questioning whether it’s wise to accept jobs where their research or teaching could be subject to political interference, public institutions’ efforts to promote diversity are being curtailed, and the job security that tenure has traditionally afforded is undermined.
In Florida, some candidates’ concerns are so profound that they’re turning down job offers in the state — despite not having other offers, said Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, a union representing faculty at all 12 of the state’s public universities, a private one, and community colleges. “That’s really a whole other level of job-search failure,” he said. (The public-university governing board in Florida approved a post-tenure-review process in March; a bill that would ban diversity statements, overhaul general-education course requirements, and prohibit colleges from spending state and federal dollars on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk.)
At least one Florida lawmaker has noted similar issues. Sen. Shevrin D. Jones, a Democrat and vice chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Education, said in a committee hearing last month that one state university — which he did not name — had seen more than 300 “reconsiderations” of job offers in the last month.
Meanwhile, supporters of the anti-DEI and tenure bills have argued that they’ve had either no effect, or even a positive one. Sen. Erin Grall, the author of SB 266, which targets diversity and inclusion programs, said before the Senate vote on the measure that it upheld academic principles. “I believe that this is true academic freedom in this bill,” Grall, a Republican, said. “This encourages all voices to be heard, robust debate to happen, and merit and academic rigor to be the utmost importance at all of our colleges and universities.” Grall’s office did not return a request for comment on the bill’s impact on faculty hiring.