Ray Rodrigues’ intellectual diversity bill ready for the Senate floor
Image via Colin Hackley.

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Critics say it will chill expression on campuses.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues for years in the House championed a plan to survey political values within Florida colleges and universities. After winning a favorable report from the Senate Appropriations Committee, it’s now for the first time headed to the Senate floor.

The Estero Republican said his legislation (SB 264) will guarantee academic freedom thrives and a diversity of views exist on Florida campuses.

“People want diversity; that’s been deeply ingrained in the field of higher education,” he said.

Rodrigues has pointed to similar surveys in other states that resulted in conservative visiting professorships. That’s helped combat a “cancel culture” on colleges that leaves many conservatives afraid to speak up.

“We need to know through objective data whether we have academic freedom and intellectual diversity,” Rodrigues said.

But critics of the bill, including college faculty across the state, said it will have a chilling effect on free speech.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, said he found particularly troublesome the fact the legislation allows any students to video- and audio-record anything in the classroom.

Rodrigues said he has amended his bill this year to make clear students cannot widely publish recordings without the consent of all involved. But Pizzo said there’s no stopping students putting video on YouTube or other platforms.

“Some of these things can go viral,” he said.

United Faculty of Florida President Karen Morian said surveys in other states have cost upward of $100,000, despite Rodrigues’ assertion there’s a minimal cost. Moreover, she said by surveying students, that immediately calls into question the objectivity of responses.

“When you ask them, students are universally wrong about how they feel they are doing in class,” she said as an example. High performing students are frequently anxious about whether they are doing well, while underperforming students typically believe they are doing better than they are in reality. So how can students be trusted to judge the objectivity of faculty and whether ideas are being allowed equal expression?

An amendment presented before the Senate Appropriations Committee aligns the bill with companion legislation (HB 233), which was approved Thursday by the House. The amendment clarifies there is no expectation of privacy in the classroom.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


4 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    March 19, 2021 at 7:24 am

    “Conservatives “ are now the folks that hate and are encouraging hate! Your mama and my mama taught us the difference between good and bad! I betcha your mama never ever told you this bs YOU are pushing is good! So why are you so afraid of defining good or bad? You a Christian by any chance? Then wtf!?

  • trump lost

    March 19, 2021 at 7:24 am

    What’s the purpose of this law? A student can record a professor, but not distribute it? A biased teaching style may mean a bad instructor, but its not a crime. So, why a law to allow a recording? Is there going to be “panel” for the student to submit suspect lectures for appropriate review? Is this another act for the base of the trumplican party that ultimately creates unnecessary government intervention looking for a problem to fix?

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    March 19, 2021 at 7:52 am

    I see the far left trolls are displeased with transparency when it affects their ability to engage in classroom political indoctrination and intimidation!

  • Sonja Fitch

    March 19, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Hush hush sweet Charlotte! Lol.

Comments are closed.


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