Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Florida Republicans target college speech controversies with proposal that would require schools to distribute 'intellectual freedom' surveys

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2021 at 4:32 PM

  • Photo via Deanna Ferrante

Florida colleges and universities could be required to issue campus-wide surveys gauging “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” under a measure passed Wednesday by the Senate.

The bill (HB 233) had already been approved by the House, meaning it is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis. If he signs it, the bill would take effect in July.

A DeSantis spokeswoman did not answer whether he will sign the bill. Without any debate, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill in a 23-15 vote, with Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the only GOP lawmaker voting against it.

The House passed the bill in a 77-42 party-line vote on March 18.

The measure would require the state university system’s Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to create an “objective, nonpartisan and statistically valid survey.” Students, faculty and staff at the schools would be given the surveys, and the resulting data would be published by the governing bodies that oversee colleges and universities.

During a debate last month, House sponsor Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said future legislatures could “use that data as the basis to make a policy decision.” The proposal also would prevent colleges and universities from “shielding” students, faculty and staff from any kind of speech.

In addition, schools could not bar any person or group from speaking on campus. Under the bill, students could also make audio or video recordings of classroom lectures for their educational use, in connection to complaints against the institutions or in legal proceedings. That part of the bill has drawn objections from the United Faculty of Florida, citing intellectual property concerns.

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