Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring each Florida state college to conduct an annual assessment of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity Tuesday.
“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas. Unfortunately, now the norm is really more intellectually repressive environments,” DeSantis said. “You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed, and we don’t want that in Florida.”
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During the bill signing event in Fort Myers, DeSantis even hinted at potential budget cuts for colleges with survey results that show student indoctrination.
“We want our universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor. We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology. That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” DeSantis said.
According to the bill, the state Board of Education will create an “objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid survey” to ensure intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at the college.
As part of the bill, intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity are defined as “the exposure of students, faculty, and staff to, and the encouragement of their exploration of a variety of ideological and political perspectives”
Some students at the University of Central Florida are concerned about how broad the bill is and the potential for any political or religious questions to end up in the survey.
“Just making sure the questions are thorough enough to not really go into a student’s personal lives outside of finding their views on things. That can be a little touchy,” UCF junior Christopher Dickson said.
“If it wasn’t anonymous, would I feel comfortable? I wouldn’t because I don’t know whose hands it’s going into,” UCF senior Alexis Howard said.
While students at UCF are mixed on whether the survey is necessary or not, they agree that on campus, it’s OK to disagree.
“You are open to believe anything you want. I never came on this campus and felt restricted on my views,” Howard said.
The bill also prevents Florida colleges from shielding students from ideas that they may find uncomfortable and offensive.
What will happen to colleges and staff who violate the new laws? The bill does not address any penalties.
As part of the bill, students will also be allowed to record their classes for personal use without the consent of others, however, the recordings may not be published without permission of the professor.
The bill also provides an appeal process and more rights to students who face disciplinary action from the college.
The law goes into effect July 1, and results are required to be published by Sept. 1, 2022 and annually thereafter.
News 6 contacted the governor’s office and the Board of Governors to get clarification on what specific questions will be on the survey.
According to a spokesperson for the governor’s office, the survey is under development, so a spokeswoman couldn’t provide any specific questions that may appear on the survey. She said the requirements for the survey do not necessitate knowing the identity of the respondent nor do they require everyone to participate.