Commentary: Florida All in for Assault on Academic Freedom

Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: This past summer Florida adopted House Bill 7, better known as the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation blocks academic instruction and workplace training that "espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels" belief in a variety of race-related ideas. The University of Florida produced providing guidance to its employees on how to comply with the bill, with a list of ideas that "instructors may not suggest or assert."

In Garcetti v. Ceballos in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court held that that when the speech of government employees is pursuant to their duties it is not protected by the First Amendment. Crucially, however, the Court held open the question of whether this was still true in the context of teaching and scholarship by university professors at state universities. In its response to the ACLU lawsuit, Florida is taking a big swing at academic freedom at state universities. The state argues that Garcetti's reasoning is inconsistent with preserving an academic freedom exception to government employee speech doctrine.