- A new law in Florida requires public universities to survey students and staff about their beliefs.
- The surveys purportedly seek to determine the state of “intellectual diversity” on campuses.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis said campuses that are “hotbeds for stale ideology” were “not worth tax dollars.”
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Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Tuesday signed legislation requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to survey students, professors, and staff members about their political views in an effort to crack down on intellectual “indoctrination” on campuses.
DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender who’s closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, threatened to cut funding from state universities that he determines don’t promote “intellectual diversity.”
During a press conference at a middle school in Fort Myers, the governor said campuses that are “hotbeds for stale ideology” were “not worth tax dollars, and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting going forward.”
The bill says the annual surveys would assess “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” and determine “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and whether students, professors, and staffers “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
The law, effective July 1, demands that students “be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable,” the state’s Department of Education said.
University professors and education experts in Florida have expressed concerns that the law would allow the state government to interfere with teaching; politicize faculty hiring, firing, and promotions; and stifle faculty and student speech.
“I worry that this bill will force a fearful self-consciousness that is not as much about learning and debate as about appearances and playing into an outside audience,” Cathy Boehme, a researcher at the Florida Education Association, told the Miami Herald in April.
DeSantis said on Tuesday that he knew “a lot of parents” who were concerned that their kids would be “indoctrinated” in college.
“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” the governor said. “Unfortunately, now the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments. You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed.”
The law is part of a broader right-wing drive to push back on progressive influences in education. Republican lawmakers across the country have pushed to prohibit the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, about the history of slavery, and of critical race theory, both of which have been banned in Florida’s public schools.
The governor signed two other education bills on Tuesday mandating new civics and “patriotism” education requirements in Florida’s K-12 schools, including teaching about the “evils” of communist and totalitarian governments.
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican, said at the press conference that Florida’s kids needed to be taught “about loving America” and “what our real history is and what our legacy is.”