Pro-woke professors leave Florida universities in protest

'It’s not safe here anymore on so many levels,' said one professor.

'More and more often we are hearing ‘Florida? Not Florida. Not now. Not yet,’' said FSU professor Matthew Lata

University professors in Florida are leaving in droves, and blaming the state’s fight against woke policies. 

The Tampa Bay Times reported on a July meeting of the Florida Board of Governors. During the meeting, a number of professors expressed concern about the political climate in Florida. Professors and administrators said they were having difficulty hiring and retaining new teachers, in part because of Florida lawmakers dismantling CRT, DEI, and other planks of the leftist agenda from higher education.

[RELATED: DeSantis announces sweeping changes to dismantle DEI, CRT in higher education]

Florida State University music professor Matthew Lata, told the Florida Board of Governors that new hires have rejected offers “because of the perceived anti-higher education atmosphere in the state.”

“More and more often we are hearing ‘Florida? Not Florida. Not now. Not yet,’” he reportedly said.

One employee at University of Florida reportedly said that a half dozen candidates who toured the campus “expressed mixed feelings about moving to Florida in the current political climate.” A candidate who applied to the philosophy department at the University of South Florida reportedly took a job at a lower-ranked school in another state over political concerns.

Florida Gulf Coast University ecology professor Edwin Everham said that 3 of 19 faculty members in his department have left, either for political reasons or because they found a better job, and applications for open positions dropped as much as ninety percent. A report from the American Association of University Professors found a law school position that went unfilled and added that some candidates turned down offers from Florida colleges without a backup plan.

UCF History professor and AAUP chapter president Robert Cassanello, says he hears regularly that job searches at the school have had no qualified candidates apply.

Cassanello said that faculty members are especially concerned that they would be called out by conservative journalist and New College of Florida board member Christopher Rufo.

“They’re changing their classes or they’re not assigning books they would normally assign out of fear that if that stuff gets published that Chris Rufo is going to come and target them and tweet about them and they’ll be in the crosshairs,” he said.

Cassanello said he considered leaving, but is willing to stay. “I don’t mind staying,” he said. “I don’t mind fighting. I think ultimately when the DeSantis fever leaves Florida, I think there might be some good that comes out of it — if those of us who have been here can tell the story.”

The Tampa Bay Times also spoke to several professors leaving the state. Ylce Irizarry was a professor of “Chicanx and Latinx literature” at University of South Florida. She said that she was forced to alter her course after the state passed the Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act and the Individual Freedom Act, a.k.a. the “Stop WOKE Act,” into law. Last year, she says, she accepted a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It was difficult to choose to give up things that I had worked very, very hard for,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “But it was an easy decision because I felt I literally would not be able to do my job. I simply could not see a way to do the job I was hired to do under the Gov. DeSantis regime.”

Carolyne Ali-Khan, a social justice in education professor at the University of North Florida, also had to change her course because of the “Stop WOKE Act.” She claimed she was also included in a state-mandated audit of university DEI expenditures, unbeknownst to her. She is moving to Molloy University, a small liberal arts college in New York. “It’s not safe here anymore on so many levels,” Ali-Khan said. “It’s not physically safe. It’s not economically safe. It’s not professionally safe. It’s not intellectually safe. That was not true when I got here.”

[RELATED: DeSantis blocks taxpayer-funded DEI programs]

Another UNF Professor, educational psychology professor Hope E. “Bess” Wilson, was also concerned about the new Florida laws. She also cited Florida laws banning transgender medical procedures for minors; she has a transgender daughter. Wilson took a job at Northern Illinois University.

Meanwhile, a July 18 report from the Tampa Bay Times found that the newly-reorganized New College of Florida is experiencing an exodus of professors. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo was among six new Board of Trustees members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

New College provost Bradley Thiessen told the Tampa Bay Times that 36 of the less than 100 faculty at the school have resigned or retired. Some of them are long-planned retirements or sabbaticals, but many were attributed to the change in leadership. 

Thiessen said many low-attendance classes would be cut, but required classes would be completed in some form. New College has already hired ten visiting faculty members, and is negotiating with six more. Temporary positions would also be used while the school seeks new full-time hires.

Campus Reform reached out to Lata, Everham, Cassanello, Irizarry, Ali-Khan, and Wilson for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.