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In the States: Halting the ‘Stope-Woke’ Act, Striking for Increased Academic Pay

The new “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

Florida Judge Blocks “Stop-WOKE” Act for Colleges

A federal judge on Thursday halted a key piece of the “Stop-WOKE” Act, blocking state officials from enforcing what U.S Chief District Judge Mark Walker called a “positively dystopian” policy that restricts how lessons on race and gender can be taught in colleges and universities.

In a 138-page order, Judge Walker wrote: “‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of freedom…,” citing George Orwell’s novel “1984.”

For context, earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-led state Legislature approved the “anti-woke” legislation, FL HB 7 (22R), or the Individual Freedom Act. The law, which was spearheaded by Governor DeSantis, expands Florida’s anti-discrimination laws to prohibit schools and companies from leveling guilt or blame to students and employees based on race or sex, takes aim at lessons over various issues such as white privilege by creating new legal protections for students and workers. Such protections included that a person should not be instructed to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race, color, sex or national origin.”

Thursday’s ruling determined that those policies violate First Amendment free speech protections along with due-process rights in the 14th Amendment on college campuses.

Earlier this month, university leaders across the state of Florida granted initial approval to a series of new guidelines that require schools to probe university professors for any violations of the “Stop-WOKE” law.

Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for Governor DeSantis said the administration will appeal the decision.

University of California Teachers’ Assistants, Tutors and Student Researchers Go on Strike

This week, thousands of University of California (UC) teachers’ assistants, tutors, and student researchers across campuses went on strike in what is being regarded as the largest walkout in higher education history. Currently, UC’s part-time academic workers have a minimum annual salary of $22,000 per year. Employees are requesting a minimum base salary of $54,000, seeking increased childcare reimbursement, and deeper rent discounts.

On Wednesday, UC Provost Michael Brown told university leaders in a letter that the union’s pay and housing demands would be an “overwhelming” financial hit that could reach several hundred million dollars a year. In response, the union said the four UAW bargaining units representing striking workers are asking for a package that would amount to 4.5% of UC’s total budget. “That’s a fair price to pay for world-class teaching and research,” the union said in an email.

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