Governor Ron DeSantis said the state would monitor students and staff's beliefs to ensure they can express their beliefs and viewpoints.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a new law that will mandate faculty and students of public universities to submit their political viewpoints to the state. The institutions could lose their funding if the state's Republican-led legislature finds these answers unsatisfactory. The political viewpoints will be gathered via a survey to promote "intellectual diversity" on campuses. The survey will not be anonymous and while the bill's sponsor, state Senator Ray Rodrigues, had stated that faculty will not be promoted or fired based on their responses, The Tampa Bay Times reported that the bill's text does not back the Senator's words. The bill was signed into law on Tuesday and will take effect from July 1. The public universities will have to assess the “viewpoint diversity” on campus every year with the use of a survey framed by the State Board of Education.
Governor Ron DeSantis said he was concerned that higher education was discriminating against conservative viewpoints. The governor said he wanted to ensure the universities were places of education and not indoctrination. “We want our universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor. We do not want them as hotbeds for stale ideology,” said DeSantis said at a news conference after signing the bill into law, reported The Washington Post. “That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward.” The survey was inserted into a law that was signed by the governor. The bill states that the purpose of the bill is to find "the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented" at public universities and whether students "feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom."
Gov. @RonDeSantisFL announces Florida's curriculum will "expressly exclude...Critical Race Theory."— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 17, 2021
“There's no room in our classrooms for things like Critical Race Theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.” pic.twitter.com/7y2b40GqDk
Many have questioned why a survey was being used as a tool to collect such information and whether its participants would be given privacy protections. A federation of unions that serve teachers in Florida criticized the bill as potentially dangerous. “Such a survey creates opportunities for political manipulation and could have a chilling effect on intellectual and academic freedom,” said the Florida Education Association. “Students already have the right to free speech on campus. All viewpoints can be expressed freely and openly.” Professors and other university staff are worried they may be targeted over their political views, including having their careers impeded or fired. It also remains to be seen if the information collected will be used for any other purposes in the future.
"It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you'd be exposed to a lot of different ideas," said DeSantis, before adding, "Unfortunately, now the norm is, these are more intellectually repressive environments. You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed." DeSantis' move comes just weeks after Florida banned public schools from teaching “critical race theory,” a study that views America’s history through the lens of racism. It was developed by scholars during the 1970s and 1980s and aimed to study systemic racism.
When questioned if there were any specific instances of a conservative student having faced repression and discrimination, DeSantis said many parents were worried about their children being "indoctrinated" on campus. Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson called institutions "socialism factories" without providing any examples on the same. "We always hear about the liberal parts of the university system, and we don't hear so much of that from the college system," said Simpson. Democrats criticized the bill and said that the state legislature had made it easier for far-right groups such as neo-Nazis and Proud boys to hold events on campus.
In Ron DeSantis's Florida, cruise lines cannot ask whether someone is vaccinated before boarding, but schools can ask students what political party they support.— Aaron Parnas (@AaronParnas) June 24, 2021
This is absolutely disgusting.