« Abstention is down on its luck these days | Main | More universal injunctions »

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Restricting tenure, but not understanding why

Florida has passed a law designed to limit tenure by requiring tenured faculty to be reviewed by the Board of Trustees every five years. Gov. DeSantis announced the law at a press conference Tuesday (between promises to investigate Twitter's efforts to resist Elon Musk's takeover bid). The law does not specify a review procedure, so the devil will be in the details of what each university's Board comes up with.

The whiplash over the law's justifications is fun to watch. If I thought DeSantis or his minions had shame or self-awareness or that anyone in this state cared, I would say they have undermined their own cause. Instead, it is just Tuesday.

On one hand, DeSantis properly identifies the purposes of tenure--"to protect people so that they could do ideas that may cause them to lose their job or whatever, academic freedom"--and the supposed reason for limiting it--that "once you’re tenured, your productivity really declines." (Bracket for the moment whether the latter is true). On the other, he and others give the game away by ranting about indoctrination, smuggling ideology and politics, creating intellectual orthodoxy, and pushing ideas like socialism and communism. If  the purpose of tenure is to allow people to express unpopular ideas inside and outside the classroom, that must include those ideas that DeSantis and his henchpeople do not like and over which they want to fire tenure professors. So while purporting to limit tenure so it does not become a sinecure, they acknowledge they would limit tenure to stop professors from saying things they do not like or that students do not like. The goal is to ensure professors whose speech is "in line with what the state’s priorities are and, frankly, the priorities of the parents throughout the state of Florida."

DeSantis says he wants to protect "dissenting" ideas. But dissenting from what? It appears to be from the views that he and the state and the state's parents want. The point of tenure is that the governor should not dictate what professors teach and write. Unless he is not concerned that orthodoxy exists, only that professors may not share and express his orthodoxy.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2022 at 04:28 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.