Governor, leave those kids (and professors) alone

A student raises his hand during class. Felicia Buitenwerf/Unsplash

PantherNOW Editorial Board

Let us learn. 

We don’t want the higher education reforms coming out of Tallahassee. We’re not worried about indoctrination, we’re not intimidated or bullied by professors and we don’t feel silenced in our classes.

The only intimidation we experience is that of our out of touch legislators who want to ban curriculum and threaten the job security of our professors. 

Take House Bill 999, which not only bans any curriculum which takes the view of any critical theory seriously, but bans university institutions from funding organizations or programs which “discriminate” based on race, color, national origins, sex, disability or religion.  

This wouldn’t just include their obvious target of women and gender studies programs, but also any program focusing on an exclusive region, like the Latin America and Caribbean Studies program, or the Moshin & Fauzia Jaffer Center for Muslim World Studies.  

All without mentioning the dismantling of any diversity, equity and inclusion office, stripping marginalized students of an invaluable support network. 

These legislation reforms only damage universities, inhibiting the wealth of knowledge and discussion that is crucial to students and professors.

And the culture wars framing is misleading – this isn’t an issue of left versus right or liberals against conservatives. 

It’s censorship and repression, plain and simple. 

And for what? What needs to be fixed? 

Florida has ranked number one in the country for higher education for five consecutive years. 

If DeSantis is really concerned about freedom and the quality of education in Florida, he wouldn’t be burning it all down. 

We don’t want our university to be some overwhelmingly liberal force, but we’re not keen on DeSantis’ plan to construct a conservative monolith in the Florida university system. 

We want it all – the good, the bad and the ugly; the stuff we agree with and the stuff we don’t.

Freedom, when it comes to academia, means having the full range of topics and view points to discuss in an open and respectful learning environment. 

Restricting what professors and students can say and the curriculum itself is the exact opposite.

Some folks may cry “Indoctrination!” 

We see DeSantis continually reference this marginalized bloc of “concerned parents,” highlighting stories of strained relationships following a child’s return to home due to differing or antagonistic political or cultural views. 

But let’s remember, just because they are someone’s child does not make them children.

If all it takes for a student to be “indoctrinated” is a class, then it’s not the class or the curriculum that’s the issue.

We’re grown adults with a stake in our education. It is our responsibility to think critically about the information in our classes. It is an individual’s obligation to analyze what they learn in college as fact, how it relates to their views and in terms of their own personal experiences and those of their peers. 

A failure to do so is not the fault of professors or class material. 

Beyond the classroom, Tallahassee’s reforms are still incredibly damaging. Pulling funding from diversity, equity and inclusion programs isn’t going to stop the “woke liberal agenda” – it’s going to disadvantage students who need resources for community and support the most. 

 FIU likes to brag about having “a campus as diverse as its students.” That ends when the state actively works against serving the vast array of people committing themselves to higher education. 

Our professors are impacted beyond classroom discussion and curriculum as well. Legislation like BOG 10.003 that includes tenure review effectively strips away the security that tenure is meant to offer and proposals to hire professors without consulting faculty whatsoever is a frightening prospect.

It puts the hiring of professors at the mercy of the Board of Trustees, who have shown that they are not wholly concerned about the issues facing their students and faculty. 

The menagerie of reforms from Tallahassee will only restrict students’ freedoms, decimate job security and freedoms for faculty and allow our trustees to prioritize appeasing their higher-ups over listening to the people who have the most stake in our university. 

FIU is not your culture war playground. We’re not here for the left, right or center. We’re here for the freedom to learn and to be treated as adults who can listen to and analyze what we learn in class. 

We don’t need Tallahassee to babysit – we need our freedom to do what we obviously do best. 

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