Florida universities hit by brain drain as academics flee ‘toxic’ environment

By | July 30, 2023

The Guardian reports:

With the start of the 2023-24 academic year only six weeks away, senior officials at New College of Florida (NCF) made a startling announcement in mid-July: 36 of the small honors college’s approximately 100 full-time teaching positions were vacant. The provost, Bradley Thiessen, described the number of faculty openings as “ridiculously high”, and the disclosure was the latest evidence of a brain drain afflicting colleges and universities throughout the Sunshine state.

Governor Ron DeSantis opened 2023 with the appointment of six political allies to the college’s 13-member board of trustees who vowed to drastically alter the supposedly “woke”-friendly learning environment on its Sarasota campus. At its first meeting in late January, the revamped panel voted to fire the college president, Patricia Okker, without cause and appoint a former Republican state legislator and education commissioner in her place.

Over the ensuing weeks, board members have dismissed the college’s head librarian and director of diversity programs and denied tenure to five professors who had been recommended for approval.

In a statement given to 10 Tampa Bay about faculty vacancies that was issued earlier this month, NCF officials said that six of the openings were caused by staff resignations and one-quarter of the faculty member departures “followed the changes in the New College board of trustees”. One of those resignations was submitted by Liz Leininger, an associate professor of neurobiology who says she started looking for an exit strategy as soon as she learned about the DeSantis appointments in the first week of 2023. [Continue reading…]

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