March 31, 2023
As Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, seeks to enact sweeping reforms to dramatically reshape higher education in the Sunshine State, students and faculty alike have protested legislation that would ban teaching certain topics, limit institutional authority and undermine tenure protections.
But one group has remained conspicuously silent: Florida’s college presidents.
Of the 40 presidents at Florida’s public colleges and universities, none have publicly challenged DeSantis as he has gone after diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; sought data on health care for transgender students; and pushed HB 999—legislation to remake Florida higher education.
Given their shared silence, Inside Higher Ed asked all 40 presidents that lead the institutions that comprise the State University System of Florida and Florida College System for comment. None of the presidents agreed to discuss attacks on higher education from the DeSantis administration, even when offered anonymity, and multiple institutions did not respond to a request for comment.
Florida’s college presidents remain silent as constituents demand they speak up with HB 999 advancing through the state Legislature. Observers suggest presidents are in a no-win scenario, where silence equals compliance but speaking out carries personal and institutional risks.
The DeSantis administration did not respond to a request for comment.