Bill regulating on-campus speakers heads to final Senate committee
The plan looks to help the next classes of Duval County graduates. Image via Duval County Public Schools.

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The bill is one of a number this Session aiming to reshape the state’s public higher education system.

A bill that would more closely regulate the diversity of speakers at the state’s universities and colleges is heading for its final Senate committee.

The bill (SB 958) would create an Office of Public Policy Events through the Board of Governors and the State University System that would put a satellite office on each campus that would ensure speakers representing “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints be presented on each campus.

“This bill encourages, embraces intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity with the goal of graduating students not only with a degree, but also as educated and informed citizens,” said Republican Sen. Keith Perry, who represents a part of Alachua County, in addition to Levy and Marion counties.

The measure would mandate that a schedule of the events be available and a video library of all forums and debates be available online for at least five years after an event. It would also specifically prohibit Florida’s public institutions of higher education from asking anyone to submit to a particular political loyalty test as a condition of employment or admission.

The bill would also prohibit these institutions from giving preferential treatment to anyone based on race, ethnicity or support for an ideology or movement “that promotes the differential treatment of a person or a group of persons based on race or ethnicity, including an initiative or formulation of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

It would also outlaw the promulgation “that systems or institutions upholding the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are racist, oppressive or otherwise unjust.” Critics have said that’s an effort to target critical race theory.

The legislation would require the state Board of Education and the Board of Governors to craft rules to implement these prohibitions and penalties for violating them. A similar bill (HB 931) is awaiting its final committee hearing in the House.

In earlier discussions, House Democrats raised the concern that the bill would require a university to host a neo-Nazi campus speaker to counter one discussing the horrors of the Holocaust. But during Wednesday’s hearings, lawmakers approved it without much discussion.

The bill, which advanced in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education, is one of a number of bills seeking to reshape higher education, or at least change current practices.

Other bills (HB 999, SB 266) are taking on tenure and institutional promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Some believe this will lead to the end major coursework in topics such as gender studies, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has lambasted as “the tactics of liberal elites who suppress free thought in the name of identity politics and indoctrination.”

Some see the agenda unfolding rapidly in the appointment of a new board of trustees at New College in Sarasota, along with the firing of the New College President.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


3 comments

  • gloriajame

    April 12, 2023 at 2:25 pm

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  • David Pakman

    April 12, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    None of these laws will have any positive impact whatsoever and won’t amount to a hill of beans. All this to pretend to be governing while the rich clean up and the poor in rural areas experience downward economic mobility. The conservative Republicans names will be written in the history books with feces. They aren’t addressing real issues. Just right wing political theatre.

  • Bert Stimson

    April 12, 2023 at 9:12 pm

    This is the party of small government, home rule, and personal freedoms for sure

Comments are closed.


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