Bill to monitor ‘intellectual diversity’ on college campuses nears final vote
Ray Rodrigues. Image via Colin Hackley.

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After the Senate, it's on to the Governor's desk.

The Legislature could soon pass a bill calling for a survey of the ideological beliefs of Florida’s university and college professors.

The Republican-led Senate gave its initial approval to the House’s bill (HB 233) to require the State Board of Education to conduct an annual assessment on the viewpoints of college professors in order “to assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.”

Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican, filed that bill, which Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues deferred to over his own version (SB 264). The Senator called the House version more detailed regarding student body governments.

The legislation comes as conservatives complain about a so-called liberal indoctrination of students. But Rodrigues opposed assertions that the effort is political.

“I disagree with the premise that we’re sending a message,” Rodrigues said. “All we’re doing is asking the question to determine what the conditions on the ground are.”

The Board of Governors would annually compile and publish the survey.

“If the results came back and showed that there was a lack of intellectual freedom or a lack of viewpoint diversity, my hope would be that the governing body of the institution would recognize that and find that unacceptable and announce what their plan is to address that,” Rodrigues said.

Critics of the bill, including college faculty across the state, say it would have a chilling effect on free speech. But conservatives argue it protects their speech, which is often suppressed.

School leadership also couldn’t “shield” students from all free speech protected under the First Amendment. State schools and governing bodies could not limit students’ access to ideas and opinions they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.

The Senate is expected to pass that measure during their next floor session, currently scheduled for Wednesday.

With the Senate’s approval, as long as there aren’t any late amendments approved, the measure would then head to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    April 1, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Who could fight a measure to enhance first amendment rights? Democrats, of course, and the academic intelligentsia, whose arm lock on college curricula might be weakened.

  • tom palmer

    April 1, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Maybe we could order a similar study of the Florida Legislature.

  • Mac

    April 9, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    This is definitely needed. Right now, our students are being overwhelmed with the forced acceptance of the Christian religion. It will be great to guarantee by law that our non-Christian religions will be guaranteed equal opportunities to present their views. I think our LGBTQ community will also benefit from the rights that will be guaranteed to them for equal access, especially if this is something that can be rolled out from kindergarten on.

  • Karen B.

    April 14, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Would this annual survey be voluntary or mandatory? Would participants be required to give their names?
    And what if a campus is predominantly liberal…then what? What policies would be imposed to achieve ideological “balance”? As far as secretly recording professors, we know recordings can be deceptively edited, then leaked to the media. A convenient way to get rid of instructors with “undesirable” viewpoints. Shameful!

Comments are closed.


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