Florida Republicans are set to approve a bill that would respond to “cancel culture” by protecting “viewpoint diversity” at colleges but university faculty worries it will limit free speech on campus, The Miami Herald reports.
House Bill 233 would require colleges to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints and ban colleges from limiting speech that “may be uncomfortable, disagreeable or offensive.”
The bill would also allow students to record lectures without consent to support a civil or criminal case against a college or university.
The bill does not specify how the survey would be used but says it should discern “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and whether students and staff “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
The bill already passed 23-15 in the state Senate and is expected to be approved by the House before heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis for a signature.
First Amendment concerns:
“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 with the Florida Education Association, told the Herald.
“Don’t you think it is dangerous for us to have all the data on personal opinions of university faculty and students?” questioned Democratic state Sen. Lori Berman. “Could this information potentially be used to punish or reward colleges or universities? Might faculty be promoted or fired because of their political beliefs?”
Democrats also worry about another provision that would prevent colleges from “shielding” students from “uncomfortable” or “offensive” speech, concerned that the provision would “make it easier for groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Proud Boys to hold events on campus.”
GOP pushes back on criticism:
“I don’t think that it’s dangerous,” said Republican state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the bill. “Other states that have gone down this road have actually found it educational and beneficial. I think that it would be educational and beneficial in the state of Florida as well.”
“If the results came back and showed that there was a lack of intellectual freedom, or lack of viewpoint diversity, my hope would be that the governing body of the institution would recognize and find that unacceptable, and announced what the plan is to address that,” he said of the survey.
Some Republicans are even pushing to later extend the effort to K-12 schools.
“I think the problem isn’t just in higher ed,” lobbyist Barney Bishop told the Herald. “The truth of the matter is that kids are being indoctrinated from an early age.”