Legislature gives passing grade to measure upping regulation of higher ed guest speakers
Conference and Presentation. Audience at the conference hall. Business and Entrepreneurship. Faculty lecture and workshop. Audience in the lecture hall. Academic education. Participants making notes.

Expert speaker giving a talk at scientific business conference event.
Supporters of the legislation say that they are fighting a political monoculture on campus.

A bill that would more closely regulate the diversity of speakers at the state’s universities and colleges — and guard against a purported political bent in public higher education — is ready for the Governor’s signature.

The bill (HB 931) was substituted for Republican Sen. Keith Perry’s bill (SB 958) and it passed the Senate with some Democrats’ support, 33-5.

If the Governor signs the measure, it 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. Those offices would ensure speakers representing “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints be presented.

Republican sponsors of the bill say they are taking on a monoculture they believe has developed on campuses. In committee, they’ve cited incidents around the country, including one at Stanford University where students heckled and shut down a judge who refused to call a transgender woman by female pronouns.

Senate Democrats, however, said this legislation is sending the wrong message to the state’s higher education institutions. Democratic Sen. Geraldine Thompson called it a solution in search of a problem.

“Our bills make a big difference beyond the black and white of the page … and this bill says we don’t trust our universities,” said Sen. Tina Polsky of Boca Raton. 

The bill is one of a number of bills seeking to reshape higher education, or at least change current practices. Other bills are taking on tenure and institutional promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). 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.

The measure would mandate a schedule of events be posted 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.

Polsky wanted to know if he had any examples of political loyalty tests being given at Florida institutions. Perry said it wasn’t as widespread in this state, but Perry said he found evidence of it in a questionnaire at Florida Atlantic University that asked potential students: “How can you play an active role in addressing and dismantling systemic racism?”

“That is saying … you must believe in that” systemic racism, Perry said.

He noted that it’s not happening in Florida like other places, however: “This would be preemptive for the most part.”

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].


  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    May 2, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    It’s cute that that Big Government thinks they can legislate away ideas.

  • Bert Stimson

    May 2, 2023 at 10:40 pm

    Regulation! Regulation! We love regulation!

Comments are closed.


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