Sunday, May 08, 2022

UF to change teachings on racism or risk $100M in funding due to 'Stop WOKE' bill. (Gainesville Sun)

Stop WOKE Act violating First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of UF faculty?  From Gainesville Sun: 

UF to change teachings on racism or risk $100M in funding due to 'Stop WOKE' bill

Gershon Harrell
The Gainesville Sun

Performance funding from the state may be on the line for the University of Florida if the public institution doesn't comply with the state's new instructional guidelines outlined in the "Stop Woke Act."

Over each of the past three years, UF has received approximately $100 million in performance funding, all of which could now be at stake.

In a 20-slide presentation sent to faculty and staff, UF President Kent Fuchs warned that the state could impose "large financial penalties" on any university that violates House Bill 7 — better known as the 'Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees' — while outlining how the changes will impact higher education.

"The slide deck which follows seeks to accomplish three things," said Fuchs at the beginning of the presentation. "First to inform you about the law as it relates to instruction, second provides recommendations on how to remain within the laws, requirements and guidelines. And third, make clear that you continue to address academic issues in your class."

Legal challenge:Minutes after bill is signed, lawsuit filed against DeSantis for 'Stop Woke Act'

Opinion:Legislature considering bills intended to protect children that will actually harm them

More:DeSantis signs into law ‘Stop WOKE Act’ to restrict race discussions in Florida

The bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in April, revises requirements for instruction based on the history of African Americans.

Just minutes after the governor signed the bill, however, a group of plaintiffs from across the state filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and others challenging the constitutionality of HB 7, claiming it violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

During his time in office, DeSantis has repeatedly threatened to penalize businesses, schools and others that don't conform to or agree with bills he has signed, which includes his efforts to take millions away from school districts with mask mandates and removing Disney's special self-governing status.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly signs HB7, "individual freedom," also dubbed the "stop woke" bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP)

Though instructors can still discuss topics of race, color, national origin and sex, they must ensure it is done so in an objective manner. They are forbidden from suggesting or asserting that one group is morally superior to another and shouldn't attempt to make others feel guilty about past actions that were committed by those of other classes or races.

Instructors who frequently discuss topics of slavery, oppression and racism must now walk a tight rope in the classroom.

But Paul Ortiz, UF's faculty union president, said he won't let the required changes deter his teaching style.

"It's not going to alter a single one of my reading assignments on my syllabus ... I don't look at what the state or Tallahassee would prefer for me to design," Ortiz said. "If I did that then my students would not be successful anymore." 

During the fall semester, he will be teaching a course called African Diaspora in the Americas. This past spring, he taught the Latino History Survey course. He said a majority of his students are able to be successful because he teaches concepts like critical race theory. 

"Right now, the state of Florida is doing a very dangerous thing, because they're going to ban critical thinking and they're doing it under the rubric of freedom of choice," Ortiz said.

The UF presentation states that HB 7's core message is that "no one likes to be told what to think and that includes students," and that instructors can't insert personal beliefs about a topic as a point of view or compel students to adopt those beliefs.

Instructors are encouraged to create environments where facts and theories are paired with different interpretations and viewpoints, as well as having open discussions and allowing students to draw their own conclusions without the endorsement of an instructor's particular point of view, UF's presentation states.

The bill signals the latest education crackdown coming from the Republican-led state House, Senate and governor's office — the overwhelming majority of whom are white.

In April, the state banned K-12 textbooks from mentioning or referencing issues that tie to critical race theory — an academic concept built around the idea that race is a social construct, and that racism is the product of bias or prejudice and deeply embedded in the U.S.'s legal systems and policies.

Following the killing of Georg Floyd in 2020, the university kick-started its own anti-racism initiative that outlined a decade-long plan for increased education on race, understanding of the country's history, research, engagement in the community and diversity hiring efforts, all of which are now at risk.

UF vowed it would require training for all students, faculty and staff on racism, inclusion and bias. Its office of research also made available grants to faculty based on topics of race, equity justice and reconciliation and promised to end its reliance on prison and jail inmates for farm labor.

A pair of presidential task forces were also established to document the school's relationship to race, and ethnicity and for the reviewal of all namings of buildings and programs, including removing any celebration of the confederate or its leaders.

While many aspects of the plan can legally stay in place, it's unclear how the university intends to move forward with its original plan with the passing of HB 7.

A spokesperson for the campus said they have nothing to say beyond what was provided in the presentation.

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