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Monday, July 31, 2023

New DeSantis Scheme BLOWS UP in His Face as Whistleblowers SPEAK OUT

Georgia DA on Trump election probe decisions: 'We're ready to go'

“Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis reemphasized her plans to announce charging decisions by Sept. 1 in her investigation into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.

“The work is accomplished,” Willis told an NBC affiliate during a back-to-school event last weekend. “We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years. We’re ready to go.”

In a letter to the chief judge of the Fulton County courthouse in May, Willis signaled in a scheduling request that charging decisions stemming from an investigation into “possible criminal interference in the administration of Georgia’s 2020 general election” could come in early August. She asked the judge to not schedule in-person trials or hearings the weeks of Aug. 7 and 14.

Willis also said in a separate letter to law enforcement that she’d announce charging decisions during a state Superior Court term that began this month.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney seated two grand juries this month that will hear cases over the length of term, which ends Sept. 1. They are likely to be tasked with deciding whether Trump and his allies will face election interference charges.

In the interview over the weekend, Willis said she is preparing for people’s reactions to the charging decisions.

“Some people may not be happy with the decisions that I’m making,” Willis said. “And sometimes, when people are unhappy, they act in a way that could create harm.” 

She also said part of the preparations include increased security, and she commended the Fulton County sheriff.”

Heat Is Costing the U.S. Economy Billions in Lost Productivity

Heat Is Costing the U.S. Economy Billions in Lost Productivity

“From meatpackers to home health aides, workers are struggling in sweltering temperatures and productivity is taking a hit.

A man in sunglasses, a white hard hat, tank top and pants is perched on a wooden frame against the sky and is tightening something on the frame.
Workers assembled a billboard sign head frame in Oklahoma City on July 27, when the high was 97 degrees Fahrenheit.Brett Deering for The New York Times

Climate Forward  There’s an ongoing crisis — and tons of news. Our newsletter keeps you up to date.

As much of the United States swelters under record heat, Amazon drivers and warehouse workers have gone on strike in part to protest working conditions that can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

On triple-digit days in Orlando, utility crews are postponing checks for gas leaks, since digging outdoors dressed in heavy safety gear could endanger their lives. Even in Michigan, on the nation’s northern border, construction crews are working shortened days because of heat.

Now that climate change has raised the Earth’s temperatures to the highest levels in recorded history, with projections showing that they will only climb further, new research shows the impact of heat on workers is spreading across the economy and lowering productivity.

Extreme heat is regularly affecting workers beyond expected industries like agriculture and construction. Sizzling temperatures are causing problems for those who work in factories, warehouses and restaurants and also for employees of airlines and telecommunications firms, delivery services and energy companies. Even home health aides are running into trouble.

“We’ve known for a very long time that human beings are very sensitive to temperature, and that their performance declines dramatically when exposed to heat, but what we haven’t known until very recently is whether and how those lab responses meaningfully extrapolate to the real-world economy,” said R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at the University of Pennsylvania. “And what we are learning is that hotter temperatures appear to muck up the gears of the economy in many more ways than we would have expected.”

study published in June on the effects of temperature on productivity concludes that while extreme heat harms agriculture, its impact is greater on industrial and other sectors of the economy, in part because they are more labor-intensive. It finds that heat increases absenteeism and reduces work hours, and concludes that as the planet continues to warm, those losses will increase.

The cost is high. In 2021, more than 2.5 billion hours of labor in the U.S. agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and service sectors were lost to heat exposure, according to data compiled by The Lancet. Another report found that in 2020, the loss of labor as a result of heat exposure cost the economy about $100 billion, a figure projected to grow to $500 billion annually by 2050.

A U.P.S. delivery in Manhattan on Monday.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Other research found that as the mercury reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit, productivity slumps by about 25 percent and when it goes past 100 degrees, productivity drops off by 70 percent.

And the effects are unequally distributed: in poor counties, workers lose up to 5 percent of their pay with each hot day, researchers have found. In wealthy counties, the loss is less than 1 percent.

Latest News on Climate Change and the Environment

Extreme heat. The world has entered what forecasters warn could be a multiyear period of exceptional warmth, one in which the warming effects of humankind’s continuing emissions of heat-trapping gases are compounded by El Niño, the recurring climate pattern typically associated with hotter conditions in many regions.

Of the many economic costs of climate change —- dying cropsspiking insurance rates, flooded properties — the loss of productivity caused by heat is emerging as one of the biggest, experts say.

“We know that the impacts of climate change are costing the economy,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, and a former global executive for environmental and social risk at Bank of America. “The losses associated with people being hot at work, and the slowdowns and mistakes people make as a result are a huge part.”

Still, there are no national regulations to protect workers from extreme heat. In 2021, the Biden administration announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would propose the first rule designed to protect workers from heat exposure. But two years later, the agency still has not released a draft of the proposed regulation.

Seven states have some form of labor protections dealing with heat, but there has been a push to roll them back in some places. In June, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law that eliminated rules set by municipalities that mandated water breaks for construction workers, even though Texas leads all states in terms of lost productivity linked to heat, according to an analysis of federal data conducted by Vivid Economics.

Business groups are opposed to a national standard, saying it would be too expensive because it would likely require rest, water and shade breaks and possibly the installation of air-conditioning.

Martin Rosas, the vice president for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union International. “Wen it’s extremely hot, and their safety glasses fog up, their vision is impaired and they are exhausted, they can’t even see what they’re doing,” he said of the workers he represents.
Brett Deering for The New York Times

“OSHA should take care not to impose further regulatory burdens that make it more difficult for small businesses to grow their businesses and create jobs,” wrote David S. Addington, vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business, in response to OSHA’s plan to write a regulation.

Marc Freedman, vice president of employment policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said, “I don’t think anyone is dismissing the hazard of overexposure to heat.” But, he said, “Is an OSHA standard the right way to do it? A lot of employers are already taking measures, and the question will be, what more do they have to do?”

The National Beef slaughterhouse in Dodge City, Kan., where temperatures are expected to hover above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the next week, is cooled by fans, not air-conditioning.

Workers wear heavy protective aprons and helmets and use water vats and hoses heated to 180 degrees to sanitize their equipment. It’s always been hot work.

But this year is different, said one worker, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The heat inside the slaughterhouse is intense, drenching employees in sweat and making it hard to get through a shift, the worker said.

National Beef did not respond to emails or telephone calls requesting comment.

Martin Rosas, a union representative for meatpacking and food processing workers in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, said sweltering conditions present a risk for food contamination. After workers skin a hide, they need to ensure that debris doesn’t get on the meat or carcass. “But when it’s extremely hot, and their safety glasses fog up, their vision is impaired and they are exhausted, they can’t even see what they’re doing,” Mr. Rosas said.

Almost 200 employees out of roughly 2,500, have quit at the Dodge City National Beef plant since May, Mr. Rosas said. That’s about 10 percent higher than usual for that time period, he said.

Maria Rodriguez, who has worked at the same McDonald’s in Los Angeles for 20 years, walked out on July 21.
Jessica Pons for The New York Times

But even some workers in air-conditioned settings are getting too hot. McDonald’s workers in Los Angeles walked off the job this summer as the air-conditioned kitchens were overwhelmed by the sweltering heat outside.

“There is an air-conditioner in every part of the store, but the thermostat in the kitchen still showed it was over 100 degrees,” said Maria Rodriguez, who has worked at the same McDonald's on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles for 20 years, but walked out on July 21, sacrificing a day of pay. “It’s been hot before, but never like this summer. I felt terrible — like I could pass out or faint at any moment.”

Nicole Enearu, the owner of the store, said in a statement, “We understand that there’s an uncomfortable heat wave in LA, which is why we’re even more focused on ensuring the safety of our employees inside our restaurants. Our air-conditioning is functioning properly at this location.”

Tony Hedgepeth, a home health aide in Richmond, Va., cares for a client whose home thermostat is typically set at about 82 degrees. Last week, the temperature inside was near 94 degrees.

Any heat is a challenge in Mr. Hedgepeth’s job. “Bathing, cooking, lifting and moving him, cleaning him,” he said. “It’s all physical. It’s a lot of sweat.”

Warehouse workers across the country are also feeling the heat. Sersie Cobb, a forklift driver who stocks boxes of pasta in a warehouse in Columbia, S.C., said the stifling heat can make it difficult to breathe. “Sometimes I get dizzy and start seeing dots,” Mr. Cobb said. “My vision starts to go black. I stop work immediately when that happens. Two times this summer I’ve had heart palpitations from the heat, and left work early to go to the E.R.”

In Southern California, a group of 84 striking Amazon delivery workers say that one of their priorities is getting the company to make it safe to work in extreme heat. Last month, unionized UPS workers won a victory when the company agreed to install air-conditioning in delivery trucks.

Amazon delivery drivers striking at the company’s Palmdale, Calif., warehouse and delivery center on Tuesday.
Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Heat has played a tremendous role — it was one of the major issues in the negotiations,” said Carthy Boston, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters representing UPS drivers in Washington, D.C. “Those trucks are hotboxes.”

Many factories were built decades ago for a different climate and are not air-conditioned. A study on the effects of extreme temperatures on the productivity of auto plants in the United States found that a week with six or more days of heat exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit cuts production by an average of 8 percent.

In Tulsa, Okla., Navistar is installing a $19 million air-conditioning system at its IC Bus factory, which produces many of America’s school buses. Temperatures on the floor can reach 99 degrees F. Currently, the plant is only cooled by overhead fans that swirl high above the assembly line.

Shane Anderson, the company’s interim manager, said air-conditioning is expected to cost about $183 per hour, or between $275,000 and $500,000 per year — but the company believes it will boost worker productivity.

Other employers are also adapting.

A man in a blue short-sleeved shirt, jeans and a fluorescent yellow safety vest stands against a cement block wall.
Brad Maurer, who leads a construction contracting business in Michigan, where heat has caused his employees to stop working hours before quitting time at some sites.Emily Elconin for The New York Times

Brad Maurer, vice president of Leidal and Hart, which builds stadiums, hospitals and factories in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, said managers now bring in pallets of bottled water, which they didn’t used to do, at a cost to the company of a few thousand dollars a month.

Rising heat around Detroit recently caused his employees to stop working three hours early on a Ford Motors facility for several days in a row — a pattern emerging throughout his company’s work sites.

“It means costs go up, production goes down, we may not meet schedules, and guys and women don’t get paychecks,” Mr. Maurer said. Labor experts say that as employers adapt to the new reality of the changing climate, they will have to pay one way or the other.

“The truth is that the changes required probably will be very costly, and they will get passed on to employers and consumers,” said David Michaels, who served as assistant secretary of labor at OSHA during the Obama administration and is now a professor at the George Washington School of Public Health.

“But if we don’t want these workers to get killed we will have to pay that cost.”

David Gelles contributed reporting from Tulsa, Okla.

Coral Davenport covers energy and environmental policy for the climate desk from Washington. She was part of a Times team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished public service journalism in 2020, and part of a Times team that received Columbia University’s John B. Oakes award for distinguished environmental journalism in 2018. More about Coral Davenport

A Simple 14-Minute Workout That Could Lower Your Blood Pressure

A Simple 14-Minute Workout That Could Lower Your Blood Pressure

“A new study points to the humble wall squat as the most effective tool to fight hypertension.

A young man and woman wearing workout gear doing wall squats against two brick columns.
Getty Images

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It has become almost a cliché across doctor’s offices: One of the most trusted tools to lower blood pressure is to exercise.

A jog or stroll around the block, experts consistently find, can have big payoffs in terms of heart health. A new study, however, points to a somewhat surprising exercise that may be able to dramatically reduce someone’s blood pressure: the wall squat.

A team of researchers based in Britain analyzed 270 previous studies that examined the link between exercise and blood pressure. They found that, predictably, exercises like running, walking, cycling, strength training and high-intensity interval workouts all helped to reduce blood pressure; mixing cardio and strength training also appeared to help.

But the most effective type of workout they looked at, especially for those who already had some form of hypertension, was isometric exercise, which involves contracting a set of muscles without moving — think planks.

This new research adds to a growing body of evidence that quick bursts of exercise — like speeding up your walk during a commute or carrying groceries with a bit more vigor — can have significant benefits for people’s overall health.

“Everybody feels this incredible threat to their time — everybody feels like they don’t have enough time,” said Dr. Tamanna Singh, co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved with the study. “It’s so interesting to see more studies coming out showing, actually, time really is not the limiting factor.”

The British researchers looked at three kinds of isometric workouts in particular: squeezing a handgrip, holding a leg extension machine in place and squatting with your back against a wall. The wall squat (sometimes called a wall sit) is probably the easiest option for people to try, as it doesn’t require any equipment, said Jamie J. Edwards, a researcher at Canterbury Christ Church University and the lead author on the study. 

Even though isometric exercises may appear relatively easy, they are often quite intense, Dr. Edwards said — as you hold yourself in place, sweating and straining. He recommends a 14-minute routine you can add to your regular workout perhaps three times a week: a two-minute wall squat, followed by two minutes of rest, repeated four times in total. 

You should stay at the same squat height for all four rounds, but the exercise will feel more challenging the more times you do it, said Jim Wiles, a principal lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University who was also an author on the study. The first bout should feel as if you are exerting yourself at a level of four (out of a possible 10, with 10 feeling as if you could not hold it any longer). The last bout should be around an eight, he said. You should feel reasonably exhausted by the end.

And be careful to not hold your breath while you do it, Dr. Edwards added.

The researchers aren’t entirely sure why isometric exercises seem to be so effective for combating hypertension. One prominent theory, Dr. Edwards said, is that when you clench your muscles without moving, the local blood vessels around them compress — and then when you release, blood flushes back, causing the vessels to widen or dilate if you perform the exercise frequently enough, in a way they don’t during a dynamic exercise like a run.

That change can be critical, because over time, high blood pressure can stiffen our arteries and prevent them from dilating properly, which restricts how much oxygen-rich blood they can deliver. This increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, Dr. Singh said.

The study doesn’t mean you should ditch your run and go straight for wall squats — isometric exercise should complement, not replace, your favorite workout, Dr. Edwards said, whether that’s cardio or weight lifting. And if you have any underlying medical conditions, you should consult with your doctor to check that isometric exercise is safe for you, Dr. Wiles suggested.

But if you are looking for a heart-healthy addition to your workout, you could do worse than the humble wall squat.

“You truly only you need your body,” Dr. Singh said. “You don’t even need shoes.”

How to Feel Happier at Work When You Have the Urge to Quit

How to Feel Happier at Work When You Have the Urge to Quit

“Because sometimes leaving isn’t the best option.

An illustration of a person looking melancholy while sitting at their desk at work. A wilted plant sits beside them. Through a window the person observes themselves pretending to be happy with co-workers.
Eleni Kalorkoti

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When Minda Harts was 35 and working as a fund-raiser, she was feeling increasingly frustrated. Her manager viewed her as a “utility player” who could be “put anywhere” and still get the job done. She wanted to be a leader.

“For so long, I just always walked on eggshells and I never thought that I could use my voice in the same way some of my other colleagues did — because I didn’t want to come across as too aggressive or angry,” said Ms. Harts, who is now an author and a workplace consultant.

This year, a Pew Research Center study found that only about half of U.S. workers are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs. And a recent surveyconducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association reported that about one-in-five workers say they work in a toxic workplace.

Ms. Harts considered quitting, she said, but realized that wasn’t the optimal solution.

So she stayed and asked to take on bigger projects. She was eventually promoted to the role of senior consultant. Years later, when Ms. Harts finally did decide to leave, she used her new skills to start her own company.

If you’re dissatisfied with your job but aren’t in a position to leave, there may be ways to improve your situation. Here are some suggestions.

Get curious.

It is easy to fall into a cycle of negative thinking when you’re feeling stymied or unhappy at work. Instead, approach your problems with curiosity, experts said.

Ask yourself what’s inhibiting you at work, advised Amy C. Edmondson, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School. Then ask: “What can I do? What can I control?”

“Think how empowering that is,” Ms. Edmondson said. “Obviously, the largest thing you can do is exit. But there are smaller things.”

Meet with your manager to discuss your aspirations and then ask for concrete feedback, Ms. Edmondson suggested.

Other experts recommended turning to people outside your organization, like friends, family, career counselors or vocational psychologists, to get a different perspective.

“Just that as a first step can oftentimes lead to improvements,” said Dennis Stolle, the senior director of applied psychology at the American Psychological Association.

Recalibrate your expectations.

If you are feeling disappointed in your role, there may be a mismatch between your expectations and reality. What are you hoping to get out of work? Is that realistic? If not, would it be more feasible over a longer time frame or on a different team?

Try to be flexible, Ms. Edmondson said.

“We live in a volatile, uncertain world,” she said. “It’s OK to have a five-year plan, but recognize that it is a hypothesis, not a fact.”

And remember that working hard means constantly learning how to add value to the company, she added.

For many workers, however, the pandemic bred a rebellion against the work-first mind-set. Some employees embraced quiet quitting, or expending minimal effort to get the job done.

“Those kinds of behaviors can sometimes help people if they’re overworked and underappreciated,” said Mindy Shoss, a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida and an expert in worker well-being. But, she said, quiet quitting isn’t going to move your career ahead in the long term.

Redefine ambition.

While ambition is often considered an admirable trait, it can sometimes go awry.

“Ambition can become harmful when it overshadows all other desires or needs, like our need to take care of ourselves or our need for community,” Rainesford Stauffer, the author of “All the Gold Stars,” said in an email.

In her book, Ms. Stauffer described how her drive to always say yes and juggle numerous jobs worsened her health.

She eventually learned to broaden the scope of her ambitions to include focusing more on her community and personal interests.

Look to your co-workers.

If you’re feeling frustrated at work, the odds are that many of your co-workers are, too.

But if that’s the case, don’t just vent and gossip, Dr. Stolle said. Find honest and constructive ways of supporting one another, he added.

Ms. Harts said she found her community by participating in after-work activities with her co-workers, like volunteering and professional development workshops.

“I know the common misconception is that we have to go to happy hour to find our tribe, but there are other ways to find like-minded colleagues,” she said.

Ask for accommodations.

Sometimes it takes just a few small modifications to make work more enjoyable. Do you need better flexibility in your schedule, or to work from home more often? What about a transfer to a different department?

If you have a qualifying condition like major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, you have a legal right to a reasonable accommodation that will help you do your job.

But even if you don’t, it never hurts to ask, especially if you can make the argument that the accommodation you desire will enhance your job performance.

Finally, as difficult as it is, try to stay optimistic, Dr. Stolle said.

“I’m not talking about irrational optimism,” he added, “but that sense that this too shall pass.”

Christina Caron is a reporter for the Well section, covering mental health and the intersection of culture and health care. Previously, she was a parenting reporter, general assignment reporter and copy editor at The Times. More about Christina Caron

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Why Ron DeSantis’s Florida slavery curriculum is so insidious | Saida Grundy | The Guardian

Why Ron DeSantis’s Florida slavery curriculum is so insidious | Saida Grundy | The Guardian

"In the mid-20th century, a generation after the civil war, the United Daughters of the Confederacy set out to rebrand the image of slavery. The group, composed of female descendants of Confederate soldiers, was fixated on returning the country’s social order to its antebellum racial hierarchy. It sought to reimagine slavery as a benign institution, and to glorify the “lost cause” of white southern insurrectionists who attempted to overthrow the government in slavery’s defense. The place that served as ground zero for the UDC’s revisionist-history effort? Schools.

In one of its most successful campaigns, the UDC called for the widespread adoption of textbooks that trivialized the horrors of slavery. As a result, a 1954 middle school textbook titled History of Georgia claimed that a typical slave owner “often had a barbecue or picnic for his slaves. The [enslaved] often had a great frolic. Even while working in the cotton fields they sang songs.” (It is no coincidence that the book was published the same year the NAACP won the supreme court case to desegregate public schools.) And while most contemporary school texts have since moved towards acknowledging that slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow era were reprehensible, organized efforts against teaching accurate racial history continue to occur.

The UDC’s legacy of revision emerged again in Florida recently, when the Republican governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis introduced legislation that would de-emphasize racism in the state’s public education curricula. Last week, DeSantis announced that Florida texts will teach students that slavery benefited African Americans who “gained skills” that “eventually parlayed … into doing other things in life”. Civil-rights leaders, educators, and scholars were quick to criticize this minimization of slavery’s cruelty as ignorance at best and deliberate misrepresentation at worst. Vice-President Kamala Harris even reacted, calling the policy an attempt “to replace history with lies”.

The backlash to DeSantis’s move is warranted and necessary, but most of the critiques miss the mark on identifying the Florida law’s deeper insidiousness. What the architects of this legislation are really attempting to do – as the UDC attempted a century before – is galvanize a political right and hold on to conservative white rule in a country with rapidly changing demographics. By denying the true ills of slavery, DeSantis is working to release the American government from the obligation of correcting for its present-day inequalities. The violence of slavery is not just limited to a series of heinous acts that happened in the past, it also includes a deliberate process of disinformation that enables future generations to maintain the power yielded by that violence.

Though DeSantis’s career has relied heavily on making power gains by denying violence, the political strategy is not his invention. The practice of violence denial has long been a hallmark of the modern world’s most oppressive regimes. Take, for example, the British empire. During her 21st birthday address in 1947, the heir apparent Elizabeth II memorably declared that her life would be lived in “service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”. Her characterization of upholding Britain’s unrelenting and exploitative colonial system as “service”, and her assertion of an “imperial family” that included subjugated African, Asian and Caribbean people, are examples of the same whitewashing tactic employed by DeSantis. Even his efforts to ban “controversial” texts were cribbed – the British crown consistently prohibited books that challenged colonial rule in conquered territories.

Another world power that has sought to subvert the historical record is Turkey, with regard to the government’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. To aid in its denial, Turkey spent millions of dollars to control the massacre’s narrative and enacted laws that criminalized anyone who accurately used the term “genocide” in reference to the killing, starvation and forced removal of an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians in the country from 1915 to 1916. Even today, Turkish loyalists dismiss dissenters who speak up about the genocide as having an agenda or being backed by foreign agitators.

Ultimately, regimes exploit disinformation about the past because the truth threatens their grip on power. But it should surprise no one when those tactics to win a political advantage also spill over into present-day issues. DeSantis’s war on reality doesn’t stop at slavery. During the pandemic, his administration also banned mandates on masks, quarantines and vaccines, and suppressed facts about the ballooning number of Covid cases, even as the death toll for Floridians soared ahead of other states.

Calling out the information that DeSantis and his supporters are distorting in textbooks and other messaging is important. However, it is just as important to not lose sight of the larger threat that violence denial poses for societies. Organized efforts to document and broadcast the truth of our past are the most significant defense we have against disinformation."

Why Ron DeSantis’s Florida slavery curriculum is so insidious | Saida Grundy | The Guardian

‘I’m not wanted’: Florida universities hit by brain drain as academics flee | Florida | The Guardian

‘I’m not wanted’: Florida universities hit by brain drain as academics flee

"Ron DeSantis’s slew of laws attacking teaching of race and gender issues sees state’s colleges struggle to fill faculty posts

Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis has rolled back the rights of Florida’s LGBTQ+ community. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

With the start of the 2023-24 academic year only six weeks away, senior officials at New College of Florida (NCF) made a startling announcement in mid-July: 36 of the small honors college’s approximately 100 full-time teaching positions were vacant. The provost, Bradley Thiessen, described the number of faculty openings as “ridiculously high”, and the disclosure was the latest evidence of a brain drain afflicting colleges and universities throughout the Sunshine state.

Governor Ron DeSantis opened 2023 with the appointment of six political allies to the college’s 13-member board of trustees who vowed to drastically alter the supposedly “woke”-friendly learning environment on its Sarasota campus. At its first meeting in late January, the revamped panel voted to fire the college president, Patricia Okker, without cause and appoint a former Republican state legislator and education commissioner in her place.

Over the ensuing weeks, board members have dismissed the college’s head librarian and director of diversity programs and denied tenure to five professors who had been recommended for approval.

In a statement given to 10 Tampa Bay about faculty vacancies that was issued earlier this month, NCF officials said that six of the openings were caused by staff resignations and one-quarter of the faculty member departures “followed the changes in the New College board of trustees”. One of those resignations was submitted by Liz Leininger, an associate professor of neurobiology who says she started looking for an exit strategy as soon as she learned about the DeSantis appointments in the first week of 2023.

The 40-year-old scientist joined the New College faculty in 2017, drawn by the opportunities of living near her ageing parents on Florida’s Gulf coast and working closely with undergraduates at a relatively small school where total student enrollment hovers around 700. But as the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a series of bills over the last two years that sought to curtail academic freedom and render a professor’s tenure subject to review at any time, Leininger witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of the new laws on her colleagues’ morale.

“All of the legislation surrounding higher education in Florida is chilling and terrifying,” said Leininger, who is rejoining the biology department at St Mary’s College in Maryland this fall where she had been teaching before moving to central Florida. “Imagine scientists who are studying climate change, imagine an executive branch that denies climate change – they could use these laws to intimidate or dismiss those scientists.”

The new laws have introduced a ban on the funding of diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Florida’s public colleges and universities, withdrawn a right to arbitration formerly guaranteed to faculty members who have been denied tenure or face dismissal, and prohibited the teaching of critical race theory, which contends that inherent racial bias pervades many laws and institutions in western society, among other changes.

In the face of that and other legislation backed by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers that has rolled back the rights of Florida’s LGBTQ+ community, many scholars across the state are taking early retirement, voting with their feet by accepting job offers outside Florida or simply throwing in the towel with a letter of resignation.

Students protest at New College of Florida
Students protest at New College of Florida, one of Ron DeSantis’s particular targets. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Hard figures for turnover rates will not be available until later this year, and none of the other 11 state-run universities are expected to match New College’s exceptionally high percentage of faculty vacancies.

A spokesperson for the office of State University System chancellor, Ray Rodrigues, issued a statement asserting that the “State University System of Florida has not received any concerns from our member institutions indicating turnover this year has been any higher than previous years. Turnover occurs every year.”

But Andrew Gothard, the state-level president of the United Faculty of Florida labor union, predicts a loss of between 20 and 30% of faculty members at some universities during the upcoming academic year in comparison with 2022-23, which would signify a marked increase in annual turnover rates that traditionally have stood at 10% or less.

James Pascoe moved to the Gainesville campus of the University of Florida in 2018, the same year that DeSantis was first elected governor. Three years later, the Dallas native started looking for jobs elsewhere when new disclosure requirements made it more difficult for Pascoe to apply for grants. An unsuccessful attempt by the DeSantis administration to prohibit three University of Florida colleagues from testifying as expert witnesses in a voting rights case raised more alarm bells in Pascoe’s mind.

Then came the passage of legislation in March 2022 that banned the discussion of gender identity and sexuality with elementary school students between kindergarten and the third grade. Pascoe and his male partner began to worry about their future eligibility for adopting children in an environment that was becoming increasingly hostile to gay couples in their judgment.

“It was becoming clear that the university was becoming politicized,” the 33-year-old assistant professor of mathematics said. “When I was waiting to hear back on job applications, they started passing all these vaguely anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The state didn’t seem to be a good place for us to live in any more.”

In the summer of 2022, Pascoe accepted a comparable position at Drexel University in Philadelphia. His partner followed suit by joining the biology department at Haverford College in a nearby suburb.

The prevailing political climate in Florida has complicated efforts to recruit qualified scholars from outside the state to fill some vacancies. Kenneth Nunn served on a number of appointment committees during the more than 30 years he spent on the faculty of the University of Florida’s law school. He said the task of persuading highly qualified applicants of color to move to Gainesville has never been more difficult under a governor who, earlier this year, prohibited a new advanced placement course in African American studies from being taught in high schools.

DeSantis came under renewed criticism this month when the state department of education issued guidelines recommending that middle school students be taught about the skills slaves acquired “for their personal benefit” during their lifetimes in bondage.

“Florida is toxic,” noted Nunn, one of the few Black members of the law school faculty who says he chose to retire last January in part because of the legislated ban on the teaching of critical race theory. “It has been many years since we last hired an entry-level African American faculty member. They’re just not interested in being in a place where something with the stature of critical race theory is being denigrated and attacked.”

The 65-year-old Nunn will be teaching law in the fall in Washington DC as a visiting professor at Howard University, one of the nation’s leading historically Black colleges and universities.

“I could have stayed in a place where I’m not wanted and tough it out,” he adds. “Or I could retire and look for work elsewhere.”

In the end, Nunn says, concerns about his professional career and even his own physical safety made that decision a relatively easy one."

‘I’m not wanted’: Florida universities hit by brain drain as academics flee | Florida | The Guardian