Hired over a decade ago to teach Latin American history at the University of Central Florida, Yovanna Pineda rebranded one of her signature courses last fall.
The title’s references to “dictatorships” and “human rights” made a strong impression on her, so she decided to call her class simply “History of South America.”
Pineda said many of his colleagues have made similar changes. Either because he fears backlash from state leaders who say they’re trying to rid college campuses of “indoctrination”, or because they don’t want the hassle of additional scrutiny.
“Some of us are becoming a little more cautious about how we say things and more conscious of how we title our courses,” Pineda said.
Despite the implementation of the new law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis said was aimed at combating the “far-left awakened agenda” in the courts, university faculty members like Pineda refused to rename the course. or avoiding topical topics such as race and race. sexuality.
DeSantis signed into law last summer called “Stop WOKE.” This bans state universities, colleges, and K-12 schools from teaching a once arcane academic concept called critical race theory.federal government Court temporarily suspends laws prohibiting students from teaching that people are “privileged or oppressed” on the basis of race, color, national origin, or gender Officials described it as a “genuinely dystopian” violation of the professor’s First Amendment rights.
But DeSantis continued his campaign last week, appointing far-right activist Christopher Ruffo to the New College of Florida’s board of directors. Rufo is best known for launching a nationwide campaign against critical racial theories. This turned the once obscure subject into a lightning rod and sparked protests at school boards across the country.
DeSantis will help the new board correct the “biased focus and unrealistic course offerings” at New College, according to a statement provided to the News Service by governor’s spokesperson Brian Griffin. , which has resulted in low student enrollment and economic problems.Florida.
Rufo told the New York Times that he and his new colleagues are trying to transform New College into a public version of Michigan’s Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school.
“We want to give conservative families in Florida the alternative of saying they have a public university that reflects your values,” he said.
The appointment of Rufo and other members to New College’s board of directors sparked protests at a Sarasota County legislative delegation meeting on Thursday. A petition against the appointment he had collected more than 1,500 signatures by Friday afternoon. The petition says college freshmen “feel like they’re being used as pawns in the governor’s game,” prompting Congress to vote against confirming the appointment.
“Governors frequently support the belief that parents and students should be in control of pursuing an education of their own choosing,” the petition said. Many of us have been struck by the frivolity of his denying New College students that right by pushing to remake the school in his own image against the wishes of students, parents and faculty. rice field. “
And on Thursday, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, Republican Palm Coast, sent letters to the presidents of 12 state agencies requesting records containing lists of all employees for diversity, equity and inclusion. bottom. description of their responsibilities; and their salary.
The aim, he wrote, was to ensure that students were educated without “aggressively promoting an ideological agenda under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion”, and the “costs and benefits” of these initiatives. was to evaluate
Renner’s request follows a request from DeSantis’ office last week for a “comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities” related to important race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion at the university. I asked for Teachers’ unions have condemned the investigation, fearing it will cool free speech on campus.
Faculty also say they’ve seen other signs the governor has gained a foothold on campus, including the removal of the word “social justice” from the name of the UCF office. The words “fairness” and “equality” have also been removed from the office’s webpage.
A spokesperson for the university said the name change was prompted by the move of offices to the new Ginsburg Center for Inclusion and Community Engagement, which promotes diversity and inclusive initiatives.
“Existing UCF offices and staff with areas of focus related to intercultural competence, civic discourse and civic engagement are now part of the center,” Gilmartin writes. “As part of this ongoing transition, the name and commitment are being updated to align with the Center’s mission and UCF’s commitment to inclusive excellence.”
She declined to answer questions about whether the change in the office’s name and website language was prompted by a “Stop WOKE” law or directives from the governor’s office or the state university system.
But some faculty and students suspect political pressure may have spurred the name change, said Martha Brenkle, a professor at UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities. There is a “distrust and insecurity” across campus, she said.
“I question your governor being attacked, and I feel like free thinking is being attacked,” she said.
Some faculty members have gone so far as to change course content, including a sociology professor who told ProPublica that she had discontinued two courses on race-related issues a month before the fall semester began. Faculty members without tenure said they feared losing their jobs.
DeSantis has directed much of the scrutiny at public universities, but some public university faculty say they feel like they too are under attack. Chris Borglum, an English lecturer at Winter’s Park his campus at Valencia College, said he feels “disheartened and anxious” among his colleagues.
The point of higher education, he said, is to teach students to evaluate sources, think about important concepts, and form their own opinions.
“There is no need for government agencies to interfere in the process,” said Borglum, who has been teaching in Valencia for 30 years.
DeSantis and his supporters drummed about the importance of free speech, Borglum said. Two years ago, they supported another law that would require universities to survey employees and students about whether they feel the campus encourages free speech. Few people responded to the survey statewide, but the majority of those who did agreed that liberal and conservative ideas and beliefs were equally acceptable on campus.
Recent moves to keep critical racial theories out of colleges have prompted governors and other conservatives to “think their ideas aren’t winning the market for ideas, so they need to play the game.” ‘, he said.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” he said, adding, “I’ve been insisting that those of us with tenure have a responsibility not to change what we do.”
Jack Chambless, who teaches economics at Valencia’s West Campus in Metro West, said he never heard a student complain that another instructor tried to indoctrinate him in his class.
“We are working in a professional manner and have not crossed any lines that the public should be concerned about,” Chambless said.
Chambless, who is in his 32nd year at Valencia, said university administrators had never tried to dissuade him from publicly expressing his libertarian views. In November he gave a lecture entitled “Did Racism Create Capitalism?” He criticizes Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be Antiracist”. Many students attended the public speech and asked thoughtful questions.
But he has heard stories elsewhere of students denouncing conservative voices or trying to prevent them from sharing their views. There is increasing pressure to do so,” he said, and Florida’s leaders may be responding to that tension.
“What’s happening in Florida may be a reaction to what’s happening elsewhere,” he said.