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On Tuesday, June 22, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a GOP-sponsored bill that orders colleges and universities to promote “intellectual diversity” on campus and combat the “indoctrination” of students. Republican supporters of the new law claim that it’s needed because college professors in Florida have been discriminating against conservative viewpoints, but critics of the law see it as an effort to bully and intimidate professors who aren’t lockstep Republicans.
Business Insider’s Eliza Relman notes that the law “requires the state’s public universities to survey faculty, students and staff on their political beliefs to measure ‘viewpoint diversity’ and fight student ‘indoctrination.’”
“It remains unclear how the state will use the information it gathers,” Relman explains, “but free speech scholars and advocates are concerned DeSantis and the legislature will retaliate against universities and their faculty for political reasons. The governor, who’s built a national profile with his Trumpian politics, suggested on Wednesday that the state will cut funding for schools it deems ‘hotbeds for stale ideology.’”
“First Amendment experts say the Florida law is unconstitutional and will do the opposite of what it purports to,” Relman reports. “Instead of promoting free speech, they fear it will both suppress certain viewpoints and undermine academic freedom, as well as force professors to waste time introducing discredited science and theories. And the effort comes amid DeSantis’ broader crackdown on free speech, including Black Lives Matter protests and the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools.”
Micah Kubic, executive director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, is among the law’s vehement critics.
Kubic told Business Insider, “This is a really disgraceful move that undermines the 1st Amendment, that will chill speech on campuses — and I think that trying to brand it as somehow a defense of free speech is an ultimate ‘up is down’ moment. Everything about it is designed to chill and intimidate, not to actually cultivate an environment of free speech or dissent. Ron DeSantis disapproving of what you think is not a compelling government interest.”
Ken Paulson, who serves as director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, predicts that college professors in the Sunshine State will defy the survey that the Florida law calls for.
Paulson told Business Insider, “Professors are going to boycott it purely because this is a state messing with the education of young people. I just know as a dean, trying to get my faculty to respond to any survey — you know, professors are very busy people, and they also do not take to authority well.”