DeSantis war on ‘woke’ leads to faculty brain drain at Florida public universities

Gov. Ron DeSantis

By Francisco Alvarado,

Campuses at Florida public universities are experiencing an exodus of faculty members, while out-of-state professors searching for new jobs are saying “no thanks” to working in the Sunshine State under the rule of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Fueled by presidential ambitions, the governor is waging a culture war on “wokeism” in higher education that’s created a chilling effect in attracting and keeping educators at Florida State University in Tallahassee, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Miami-Dade County’s Florida International University, according to faculty union leaders.

“I am hearing about it all over the university,” Matthew Lata, an FSU music professor, told Florida Bulldog. “It is happening across the board. In the College of Arts and Sciences, the number of people leaving has doubled compared to last year. People looking for jobs outside the state are up sharply from a year ago too.”

In conversations with union heads from chapters representing the state’s 12 public colleges, the pool of new faculty applicants is shrinking, Andrew Gothard told Florida Bulldog. Gothard is a Florida Atlantic University instructor who is president of the statewide United Faculty of Florida.

“Instead of 150 people applying for a job, it’s now maybe 20 to 30,” Gothard said. “The best scholars and researchers are no longer interested in Florida. We are at a tipping point.”

Andrew Gothard

DeSantis is exerting his influence over the Florida college system’s Board of Governors and the Republican-controlled Legislature to do away with critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion curricula and programs. Those attacks are having a “severe impact on our recruitment and retention,” Gothard said.

“It’s all the governor’s talk about faculty being these far-left Marxists indoctrinating students,” Gothard said. “A five-minute walk around any campus would disprove that.”

DeSantis spokesmen Bryan Griffin and Jeremy Redfern did not respond to multiple Florida Bulldog emails for comment. Renee Fargason, a spokeswoman for State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, declined comment for this story.


At a January press conference, the governor promised public university courses, programs and policies based on critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equality and inclusion, or DEI, would get “no funding, and that it will wither on the vine.” Critical race theory and DEI are key targets in the war on “wokeism” by hard-right conservatives like DeSantis.

Companion bills are currently moving through the Republican-dominated state House and Senate that would restrict public universities from teaching “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”

Proposed legislation would also prohibit campus groups and programs that participate in critical race theory from obtaining state and federal funding; mandates that boards of trustees provide instructions on the removal of critical race theory in curriculums; and bars faculty members from seeking grievance and arbitration proceedings.

At a March 13 West Palm Beach roundtable, dubbed “Exposing the DEI Scam,” DeSantis doubled down on his rhetoric. “In Florida, we are not going to back down to the ‘woke’ mob, and we will expose the scams they are trying to push onto students across the country,” DeSantis said. “Florida students will receive an education, not political indoctrination.”

Ray Rodrigues

Rodrigues, who also attended, said the state’s university system had to “refocus our efforts towards the distinct mission of higher education.”

“We value academic excellence,” said Rodrigues, a former state senator. “And therefore merit-based outcomes, instead of liberal ideologies, will be prioritized for all our students across the system.”

A few weeks later, on March 29, the board of governors voted 14-2 in favor of making professors with tenure submit to five-year performance reviews about their work productivity. About a dozen professors and college students, largely from FSU, spoke against the Rodrigues-backed measure. They argued the new rule would stifle academic freedom because instructors would fear reprisals for teaching lessons that may run afoul of the Republican “wokeism’’ crackdown.

“The statements by Gov. DeSantis and others coming out of Tallahassee is just pure propaganda,” Gothard told Florida Bulldog. “You can’t throw an entire system under the bus…and expect to recruit high-quality people or expect people to stay long-term.”


Dr. Elizabeth Peters, an anthropology professor, was among the FSU instructors who addressed the board of governors. The new five-year review process could jeopardize her department’s negotiations with “two extremely high-quality medical anthropologists,” Peters told the board, according to a video of the meeting.

“If we successfully recruit these two candidates, they will bring with them $4.3 million in funding,” Peters said. “I am worried…if this passes.”

Peters did not respond to a Florida Bulldog phone message and email requesting comment. Dr. Tanya Peres, chair of FSU’s anthropology department, referred questions to Heather Athey, an assistant dean and spokeswoman for the FSU College of Arts and Sciences. Athey did not respond to two emails seeking comment.

FSU head spokesman Dennis Schnittker did not respond to two voicemails and two emails seeking comment.

Lata was another FSU faculty member who spoke at the March 29 meeting. Search committees in various departments are having trouble finding interested candidates because of the five-year tenure review, as well as legislation targeting higher education, Lata told the board. “More and more often, we are hearing: Not Florida,” Lata said. “We know of cases where offers have been tendered and turned down. Certainly in my college, [there’s been] at least two because of the perceived anti-higher education atmosphere in the state.”

In his phone interview with Florida Bulldog, Lata said one strong individual turned down an offer shortly after the Legislature passed and DeSantis signed a law last year banning public school courses about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten to third grade. Recently, the Florida Board of Education expanded the prohibition to all grades, including high school students.


The state House also passed bills this session making it a felony to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender minors, and allowing the state to revoke food and beverage licenses from businesses that admit children to drag shows.

“This close colleague in another state felt that the atmosphere in Florida was too homophobic for him and his partner,” Lata said. “The other professor [who turned down a job] said Florida is not the place for her right now. The offer was made before midyear.”

He is also aware that a professor who teaches Hispanic literature is job hunting, Lata added. “He is right in the crosshairs,” Lata said. “He is actively looking for employment outside the state.”

Lata declined to provide names and contact information for the three individuals.

Eric Scarffe

At Florida International University, which has multiple campuses in Miami-Dade, the philosophy department has lost two professors in the past 12 months, said Eric Scarffe, vice president of the United Faculty of Florida chapter at FIU.

Scarffe, who is a philosophy assistant professor, said one colleague found a job at an out-of-state institution last year, and another retired this academic year. “They were motivated by the low pay at FIU, the high cost of living in Miami-Dade County and the political climate at public institutions,” Scarffe said. “It doesn’t appear things are going to get better, and it’s motivating professors to look elsewhere for employment.”

Other departments are having a hard time recruiting new staffers, Scarffe said. “The libraries department is struggling to fill vacant positions,” he said. “With what’s happening in Tallahassee, it’s making the situation untenable for faculty to be recruited and retained at our institution.”

Maydel Santana and Madeline Baro, FIU spokeswomen, did not respond to Florida Bulldog voicemails and emails seeking comment.


At Orlando’s University of Central Florida, various departments are having difficulty conducting searches for new staffers, said Robert Cassanello, UCF’s United Faculty of Florida chapter president. “Either the pools of candidates are very small or the candidates are not very good,” Cassanello said. “No one wants to come to Florida.”

Robert Cassanello

Cassanello, an associate professor at UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities, pointed to a recent failed search for a new vice president of research as a sign the university is not getting qualified applicants. In an open letter sent to faculty, UCF Provost Michael Johnson said the search process “produced four strong candidates,” but the university opted not to offer the job to any of them.

“We have concluded there is much work to be done within our research enterprise that will require a deep understanding of our current operations and investment in the organization to propel us forward,” Johnson wrote. “Dr. Winston Schoenfeld will continue to serve as the long-term interim vice president for research and innovation at the University of Central Florida through at least December 2024.”

He and other faculty members interpreted the email to mean the pool of candidates didn’t have a worthy contender, Cassanello said.

Chad Binette, UCF’s head spokesman, did not respond to emails requesting responses to Cassanello’s observations.

Retaining faculty at UCF is also becoming problematic, Cassanello said.

“I know of cases involving engineering and computer science professors who have the ability to leave for universities outside of Florida,” Cassanello said. “I have also learned of people in arts and humanities who are leaving. I have spoken to three professors in the department who got tired of Florida.”

He would not identify the professors because “they are telling me stuff in confidence,” Cassanello said. The university’s administration is aware of the problem with recruiting and retaining staff, he added.

Initially, professors left for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cassanello said. “Recently, [those reasons have] shifted to the current state of the Florida Legislature and what they are doing to higher education.”

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Latest comments

  • Another work article and attempted hack job on our governor!!
    Let them leave, part of our problem is our education system.

  • Don’t let the door hit you in the butt as you leave. There will be plenty of replacements when word gets out.

  • It boggles the mind to read that DeSantis is against indoctrination when what he is doing will result in exactly that. Our schools, colleges, and universities are supposed to expose our students to various ideas and help to develop critical thinking and analysis skills. This “anti-woke” fever is more than a bit insane.
    I believe the reason for DeSantis’ crackdown is because conservatives FEAR THE POPULATION LEARNING HARD TRUTHS THAT ARE BEING HIDDEN. This takes us backwards not forward. The fact that DeSantis consistently denies systemic racism tells all.

  • Cleaning house is good—maybe Florida’s students will now get an education and not become indoctrinated into the ‘woke’ lifestyles that others are trying to force them to be squeezed into their mold. Just because certain people feel one way or identify as something other than the ‘fact’ of what they actually are, doesn’t mean we all must see beyond the actual facts of who or what they factually are. That’s their personal feeling and we all don’t need to know their personal lives or should
    We be forced to know them and personally agree.

  • I am not surprised at so many in the teaching profession are wanting to make tracks away from Florida. I am honored they are standing strong against the governor and his moves to stop history being told even if it is uncomfortable, most of world history is, his moves against Transgender and LGBTQA, and allowing any Tom Dick or Harry to openly carry guns without a a state and as a country we need to try to put a stop to this madness an unite together to move forward with understanding and compassion for others

  • Temporary growing pains as the woke legion makes its exit from Florida. There are many professors and academics that do not subscribe to the woke agenda who will be welcomed here. Our colleges and universities are full and enrollment is at all-time highs. Things are only going to get better!

  • So just throw everyone under the bus. Do you know what they have suffered to have the courage to be who they believe they are, whether you approve or not? You speak out, and we disapprove, yet you still speak you derogatory remarks about a human who has sought to be who they were created to be, and not everyone is expected to be a saint and perfect like you claim to be. God bless you and your lily-white underwear. Fed up with your ego. Just a person agrees with Our Pledge of Allegiance.

  • The new law is doing what was intended, sending the ‘woke’ goofball educators down the road. I think the recruitment issue proves the point of how indoctrinated the world of academia has become to dystopian leftist ideology. The good, honest educators will gradually migrate here. Good riddance to the leftist. Florida will be left with a much better learning environment as we weed out the radicals. Free speech will be desired once again.

  • Ba-by.
    Go DeSantis

  • No one will want to attend Florida schools. This will down grade Florida colleges rankings. Only instate people and people who can’t get into a good schools will attend. Woke means alert to and aware of social injustices such as racism

  • I think it’s ironic that the war on “wokeism” is a war on far left Marxism. In reality the MAGA right mirrors the behavior of the Chinese Communist cultural revolution, the Stalinist period in Soviet Russia and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Suppression of human rights, promoting lies, paranoia, changing history, etc. When the Soviet Union finally began to address these issues, it collapsed. Putin supports the extreme right all over the world while claiming to combat Nazis in Ukraine. MAGA republicans favor Russia over Ukraine. Putin’s Russia has similar attitudes as US Republicans on LBTQ issues and human rights issues. The same goes for extreme fundamental Islam. It is popular for Progressive Liberals to call the American right wing Fascists. It is time to call out their similarities the dark side of the extreme left.

  • Ignorance is self-fulfilling.

    Those who support DeSantis and his ridiculous “anti-woke” authoritarian agenda have zero legitimacy, only hateful and divisive rhetoric.


  • Good riddance “woke”! This country needs to get back to apprenticeships and away from all the indoctrination that takes place at universities…and schools.

  • Cleaning house in the field of education is long overdue. I hope this also cleans out the elementary and high school faculties where all of this nonsense starts. Get back to teaching the basics and let this philosophical, left wing garbage wind up in the landfill where it belongs.

  • Welcome to dummie-land. Put your blinders on, stick your fingers in your ears, and stay awhile!


  • Our education system should be educating and not indoctrinating. That’s why we are so far behind the industrialized nations when it come to education.
    If college professors don’t want to spend their time educating then I say good riddance.
    Florida schools will recover the loss of indoctrinators and find quality professors. In the long run Florida schools will become some of the top in the nation.

  • Thanks for another great article. Troll comments cheering on the degradation of Florida’s higher education talent pool are pathetic. Ignorance must truly be bliss.

  • WOW, many comments reveal that those who support DeSantis’ fascist political agenda didn’t read the whole article. Not surprised because the indoctrinated, uneducated want everyone to be like them. I believe that putting a child into Florida’s school systems is tantamount to child ab7se since this fascist ideology took hold here in Florida.

  • You people don’t even know the definition of your stupid word woke! That right thete tells me the ignorance you people show the world on a daily basis. You will be crying when defascist takes all of your ily white rights away from you. Hope he starts with your guns!! Those are next. Mark my words.

  • USNWR will downgrade their ranking of Florida universities after they lose preeminent faculty and grant funding, the governor will declare their process “woke,” and the servile sheep will applaud while the state continues it’s downward slide.

  • Such are the works of fascists as this is what they want! Look at the science in Germany after the great minds fled in the 30s. We too are experiencing what it must have been like to be a moderate German in 33 or 37 but by 40 they were in concentration camps and we all know the story.

  • Less than 50 students applied and were accepted th eThe New College DeSantis took by hostile takeover in Jan. All applicants have asked for refunds and will not be enrolling. Many students have lost their government funding and scholarships because DeSantis ruled against any DEI. They are also having a problem getting grades because The New College decided to grade differently than almost all colleges. Some students will have to retake a year because their credits are not being counted.
    Another year another 12 failed colleges in the state because of DeSantis’ incredible myopic vision of what a college experience should be. There have been 192,000 K-12 that will not be returning for the 2023-2024, (state website info) those kids did not walk out of the state alone.
    12,000 doctors, 60,000 nurses and 9,500 teachers left that state last year. The 2023 year looks worse. There are wings closing down in hospitals because of the lack of dr. and nurses.
    No women should be in the state of FL if they are planning or not to get pregnant. There are very few OBYGYNs left in the state. If you needs abortion you will have to travel to any state above Virginia. Ot you can take a chance like a few women did. One started spotting. She want to a hospital and told her to wait until the fetus aborted itself. They could do nothing more for her. She went into the bathroom lost the fetus and half the blood in her body. The EMTs did not want to take her to the hospital. When she did she was in a coma. No women needs to go through this torture but DeSantis is an expert on torture. He wants the women to suffer. If you have sepsis with a miscarriage the chance you could be dead in 12 hours is almost 80%. But until you are near death the hospitals and doctors are worried about being arrested if they help.This is insane and DeSatis should be institutionalized.
    And college women, 1 in 14 in FL is raped. If you are pregnant you better have a signed receipt from your rapist because otherwise DeSantis will make you have the child. The same for incest. He has given rapist and incest scum the thing you can get away with in FL. Not hyperbole, the truth!
    Stay out of FL but if you do stay, review every law this authoritarian has. He copies every law of Victor Orban the Authoritarian of Hungary. Good luck! If you love your children get them out of FL. I did after 40 years. Sold everything while the market was high, its falling 20% now, and will never come back until Desatan is gone…

  • Rhonda Santos, Florida’s Nanny. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Free Florida.

    Are students still allowed to read George Orwell at public institutions? 1984 seems to be running a few decades late:
    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
    “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

  • If professors are so upset with the people’s will, as represented by our elected officials, then please, by all means, go find a place more suitable to your ideas. Seems to me you’ll find plenty of room in woke California or NY where people are leaving in droves. You really won’t be missed here.

  • Florida is rapidly becoming the GOP’s utopia where the governor tells you what to think and condemns any free thought as “woke”. Lies are “facts” and history is what you wish it was.

    Now the brain drain has begun, leaving the education of Florida’s youth to the least qualified. Slaves and cannon fodder don’t need education. In fact it is contrary to their control.

    Florida high school students won’t be able to qualify for education out of state soon, making them even more insular. Poor, sick, and no prospects. Florida wins the race to the bottom. But it will all be under water soon anyway.

  • And just ICYMI, “woke” is now simply shorthand for extreme leftism. It used to be a reference to being “awake” (or actively aware) of discrimination, but now the progressives have pushed far beyond that admirable goalpost to emphasize victimhood and do-whatever-you-want “freedom” without morals.

  • A “brain drain” in Academia — home to certified retards and retreads and institutionalized pedophilia!!!

    So Kristina Olson of Princeton — who spews there are no genders but babies can immediately recognize they are transgender (?!?!?!) —- may not wish to come to Florida???


  • The defunding of Fake Academia to rid North America of Fake Science and Fake History cannot begin soon enough!

    The cry of too many universities (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, UC, University of Washington) is “End America”!

  • In this article you claim that DEI and critical race theory are the reason that people are leaving. That is part of it, but it is also the fact that women’s right to decide about their reproductive health is being taken away, the rights of parents to decide for proper treatment for their children is being taken away, it is not safe for women of child bearing age and it is not safe for young families. And that’s not even mentioning the terrifying pro murder gun policies in the state. It baffles me that people who talk about political freedom are supporting desantis. His policies are the opposite of freedom, they represent the worst kind of political repression. Let people decide about their own lives, not the state of Florida!

  • DeSatan is creating more floridiots.

  • ” .. that’s a smear on trvmp ” – regd. Jan. 6th. Capitol attack (kinda attacked itself thanks to corp. anti union’ism and fb inc. – what? – clovdflare 4chan anyone? Crypto fasho change’o your county * Seminole county system to do anything.. w. blockchain NO GOOD. * look it up . Gaet’z guy was in on it.. they still bs about crypto .. see democracy now org search ‘ crypto el salvador ‘ . no bueno.

    oh the smear ‘ quote – R D. not long after the Publix heir revalation$ etc. .. oracle ceo ? $ @ that j6 odd.

    Base notion; bvsh-savdi-pvtin-drumpf watev.. LOSERS.. haters. . lame. viva END IT , best band hands down as of late. Baltimore HC~

  • My wife and I, as well as our children attended Florida universities — I would not encourage my grandchildren to do the same.

  • I graduated from FSU with a doctorate. I have experience at both NYU and NJ colleges throughout my life. Students need professors that challenge thinking and encourage examination of differences in the world. Florida Universities are putting the students at a distinct disadvantage by limiting what students learn. They will not be able to compete with the rest of country and world. They are not all going to remain in FL after graduation. They will
    Be limited in competing for the best jobs available in the country and world. Life does not stop in Florida. Students need to be worried about national accreditation of their school as all of this goes into effect. Important to employers even if our Governor does not take a more expansive view and stay out of a great education system.

  • The unspoken assumption is that professors even care about politics of right and left. Some do, but most are grinding away hours at the computer or labs making a name for themselves as scholars and researchers, all the while seeing that their lectures and teaching are up to date and state of the art. The professors I know who are leaving are not ideologues, but rather are thoughtful people who do not like instability and the sense that what they do is not valued. No one wants to be pigeon-holed as some sort of deviant for being a highly competent scholar. The best and most valuable professors — the ones who advance the academic mission and contribute to international recognition of their institutions — are the ones who leave for more stable places and colleges that value them. The ones indeed mired in leftist politics will remain, because being mired in politics is not what serious academics do (with notable exceptions who, for the most part, are not in Florida anyway). Florida university faculty are ripe for the picking and are being picked off. It is tragic, but if mediocrity is what the good people of Florida want, then so be it. It’s democracy in action and academic markets in action.

  • Good riddance to those woke professors! They will be replaced amen!

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