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Free Speech Experts Slam DeSantis’ Law Punishing Student ‘Indoctrination’

  • DeSantis signed a law mandating public universities survey students and faculty on their political beliefs. 
  • Scholars and advocates said the law is “disgraceful” and could lead to bizarre classroom instruction.
  • For instance, “intellectual diversity” could be used to mandate professors teach creationism alongside the science of evolution.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a new bill into law on Tuesday that requires the state’s public universities to survey faculty, students, and staff on their political beliefs to measure “viewpoint diversity” and fight student “indoctrination.”

The Republican-passed law aims to determine “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in classrooms and whether students “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” according to the bill’s text. And it mandates that students “be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.”

It remains unclear how the state will use the information it gathers, 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. 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. 

Undermining free speech and academic freedom

Critics of Florida’s new law fear DeSantis and the GOP-run state legislature will intimidate universities and chill speech on campus. Micah Kubic, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the…

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2021-06-26 14:31:39

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