DeSantis wants Florida colleges to "assess viewpoint diversity" on campus

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

UPDATE: This article originally indicated that HB 233 would require individuals to complete surveys. This was incorrect and had been based on faulty information published on another site. That information has been removed and replaced with corrected details from the bill provided by the Governor’s office. (Corrected article continues)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is constantly coming up with a variety of plans, executive orders and bits of legislation that seem to be at least partially aimed at “owning the libs.” I can appreciate that. The man has a lot on his plate and some suspect he has bigger things in mind for the future. But his latest announcement involving the public colleges and universities in the Sunshine State involves a potentially controversial order involving intellectual diversity on campus. He just signed legislation that requires state colleges and universities to conduct an annual assessment of viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their universities. The Governor’s office states that this is required because “freedom of speech is an essential building block of our freedom as Americans and our higher education institutions must champion it, rather than chip away at it.”

DeSantis also signed bills that would allow students to record lectures and later use the recordings in civil suits if required and prevent schools from banning speech that may be uncomfortable or offensive. But I really just wanted to focus on this survey idea today.

Here’s the description from the Governor’s website.

House Bill 233 requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions to ensure that Florida’s postsecondary students will be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.

One of the Governor’s spokespeople said that the survey would be “selected or created by the state university system’s Board of Governors and the State Board of Education.” In other words, the survey doesn’t even exist yet. But according to the Governor’s spokesperson, “this is a brand-new survey and requires thoughtful and diligent work by the Department of Education.”

Framed in this fashion, the legislation is certainly far less problematic than it first appeared to be. But without seeing the complete survey (when it’s finished) it’s hard to say. Who at each school will be filling out the survey and how will they collect the information? It seems like measuring “viewpoint diversity” is a tall order without intruding on people’s privacy. Perhaps issuing an anonymous survey to both students and faculty asking if they feel comfortable expressing their viewpoints could prove useful. But if suppression of viewpoints is reported, who is responsible for taking corrective action? If the problem is coming from the faculty and/or the administration, they may prove unwilling to cooperate.

I can appreciate DeSantis’s willingness to attempt to address a very real issue here. Taxpayer-funded colleges and universities acting as incubators for socialist brainwashing programs are a serious problem. And no, I don’t have a workable solution for it off the top of my head. If this effort proves effective, great. But liberal orthodoxy is deeply entrenched at the majority of American schools.