We, the full-time faculty, graduate workers, librarians, postdocs, and counselors of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, express our solidarity with the students, educators, and education workers of Florida as they fight back against an extremist right-wing campaign to undermine public education, from kindergarten all the way through higher education.
Florida has a rich tradition of public education, especially independent, high-quality public higher education. This system is facing a crisis brought on by a reactionary Republican administration and legislative majority that are gutting public education by targeting schools, colleges, and universities for any actions perceived as welcoming to LGBTQ (especially trans) people and students, and the study of race, racism, gender, and sexuality, which they deride as “wokeism.” On the heels of the largest protests in US history in 2020, Florida Governor DeSantis is determined to censor Black history.
Florida’s current governor, Ron DeSantis, is leading a multipronged assault, including:
- Attacking African-American Studies, including interfering with the AP curriculum.
- Sanctioning McCarthyist surveillance of students, faculty, and staff to uncover their political beliefs and even their medical records and menstrual cycles.
- Gutting educators’ rights, including the eradication of tenure and its replacement with five-year reviews for all faculty, with the possibility of non-reviewable immediate termination.
- Eliminating Black and LGBTQ studies curricula and creating voucher programs that will undermine public K-12 schools.
- Implementing new rules to revoke state funds when K-12 and higher education institutions commit resources to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Permitting students to secretly record class lectures to use in disciplinary proceedings against faculty and staff for violating “Stop Woke” policies.
- Compelling faculty and staff to confront students with “uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive” ideas.
- Requiring institutions to change accreditors and pressuring accreditation agencies to accept these changes.
- Hiding presidential searches for the state university system behind a veil of secrecy, with no public oversight.
- Embracing the functional parallels between HB 7 and historic attempts to undermine the emancipatory value of knowledge, such as anti-literacy laws that prohibited enslaved persons from learning to read and write.
The Florida fight represents in miniature the broader assault on social movements and forces of democracy in the United States. The assault on tenure is a key piece of a much larger effort by a united front of reactionaries to dismantle public education at all levels. Under these circumstances, there can be no academic freedom.
We stand with our union siblings in the United Faculty of Florida and across the Florida labor and social justice movements as they organize to resist and defeat the anti-public education agenda, and we commit to showing up for and with them in the fight.