Florida Bill Would Permit Students to Record Lectures to Prove Political Bias

April 26, 2021 Updated: April 26, 2021

A Florida bill would permit students to record classroom lectures without a professor’s consent for proof if they suspect they are pushing political bias.

House Bill 233 (pdf), which currently requires the signature of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, would allow students to record lectures so long as it’s for their own personal educational use, or if they want to use the recording as evidence in a civil or criminal case against their school.

The recordings are for students’ “own personal educational use, in connection with a complaint to the public institution of higher education where the recording was made, or as evidence in, or in preparation for, a criminal or civil proceeding,” the legislation states.

Sponsored by Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach, the bill cleared the Senate by 25–15 on April 7 and was approved by the Republican-dominated state House in a 77–42 party-line vote in March.

If signed into law, students will not be able to publish the lecture recordings publicly or the professor could seek damages up to $200,000, according to the bill.

Students would also be allowed to conduct “free-speech activities,” including “all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, and speeches; distributing literature; carrying signs; circulating petitions; faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary, whether published or unpublished; and the recording and publication, including the Internet publication, of video or audio recorded in outdoor areas of campus.”

“The State Board of Education may not shield students, faculty, or staff at Florida College System institutions from free speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the language of the bill states.

It would also require public colleges and universities to survey students, faculty, and staff about their political beliefs, as part of a published annual survey to “assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on public university campuses. Completing the survey would be voluntary for those in the campus communities.

The survey must be “objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid,” and its goal is to find whether “competing ideas and perspectives” are fairly presented during lectures and whether students, faculty, and staff “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints” on campus or in the classroom.

Another part of the bill prevents governing boards of public universities from “shielding” students, faculty, and staff from any speech ideas and opinions they may find “uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.”

The bill doesn’t specify who will use the survey’s results for what purpose. Roach has said the results may be used for future policy decisions.

DeSantis’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.

GQ Pan contributed to this report.