State University System working with FSU politics institute to develop ‘intellectual diversity’ survey
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intellectual diversity
Researchers are helping establish the size and quantity of questions, and how to ask them.

The State University System is currently working with political researchers to develop Florida’s controversial “intellectual diversity” survey.

State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser told the House Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee on Wednesday the system is working with the Institute of Politics at Florida State University to develop the survey. The Republican-led Legislature, with Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ blessing, mandated the creation of that survey earlier this year in a bill (HB 233) to protect “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on college campuses.

The Legislature established the Institute of Politics last year as part of a broader higher education package.

“We saw it as a potential resource for us to work in the development of the survey mechanism,” Criser said.

After designing the survey, the next step will be determining how to deliver it to students, employees and faculty.

Criser, who is the former President of AT&T Florida, compared his vision for the survey to what businesses might design.

“If a business wanted to know more about their customers and they wanted to know more about their employees, then you’d want to ask questions that ultimately would allow you to evaluate and understand where you had opportunities to improve, where you might compare to your competitors,” Criser said.

The university system is also in conversations with the Florida College System about streamlining their approaches.

Democrats, who opposed the measure during the 2021 Session, remained silent on the matter during Wednesday’s committee meeting. Only Rep. Jim Mooney, an Islamorada Republican, inquired further about the survey.

The Institute of Politics and Criser’s staff are good at data and data analysis, and are familiar with survey work. The institute is helping establish the size and quantity of questions, and how to ask them.

“We are trying to understand what the right questions are and what the right approach is,” Criser said.

The Institute of Politics is housed under the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. According to the university, the nonpartisan academic center features applied research from political scholars and curricular initiatives aimed at celebrating democracy and encouraging civic engagement.

Guest speakers at events in the institute’s less than one year history have included West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and former Senator from Florida and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez.

DeSantis signed the intellectual diversity measure in June as part of a trio of education bills tackling civics.

The controversial law requires the state Board of Education and Board of Governors to annually survey the viewpoints of college and university professors “to assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.” It also prohibits schools from shielding students, staff and faculty from certain speech, namely speech from particular ideologies.

Under the bill, which passed despite opposition from most Democrats and a pair of Republicans, school leadership can’t “shield” students from free speech protected under the First Amendment. They couldn’t limit students’ access to ideas and opinions they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.

Central to the Governor’s call for strengthening civic understanding is critical thinking and debate, which he said has become a lost art. Students head off to college campuses and return “indoctrinated,” DeSantis, a Yale University and Harvard Law School graduate, said.

“We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” he added. “That’s not worth tax dollars, and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting going forward.”

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.


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