Florida Legislature Passes Bill to Survey ‘Viewpoint Diversity’ on College Campuses

April 9, 2021 Updated: April 9, 2021

A Florida bill requiring public colleges and universities to survey students, faculty, and staff about their political beliefs has passed the state Legislature and is headed for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk.

House Bill 233, which had already been approved by the Republican-dominated state House in a 77-42 party-line vote in March, cleared the state Senate by 25 to 15 on Wednesday.

If signed into law, the bill would require the state university system’s Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to conduct and publish an 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.”

In addition, university students are allowed to record classroom lectures without a professor’s consent, so long 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. However, the recordings cannot be published, or the professor could seek damages up to $200,000, according to the bill.

The bill doesn’t specify who will use the survey’s results for what purpose. Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach, who sponsored the bill, said the results may be used for future policy decisions.

“I’m not asking you to make a policy decision here, all I’m asking you to do is to allow us to ask the question, gather empirical data, to see if a future legislature may want to … use that data as the basis to make a policy decision,” Roach said, reported Miami Herald.

Republican state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, another primary sponsor of the bill, said the governing boards of the state universities would hopefully use the survey results to decide whether there are issues that need to be addressed.

“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,” Rodrigues said, reported Tampa Bay Times.

DeSantis’s office has yet to announce whether he will sign the bill.