CLAIM: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring students and faculty to register their political views with the state.
THE FACTS: The 2021 law requires public universities in Florida to conduct annual “intellectual freedom” surveys, but it does not require respondents to register their political views with the government.
Criticism of the year-old Florida bill resurfaced online this week. Author Stephen King tweeted about the bill on Tuesday, saying, “DeSantis is signing a bill requiring Florida students and faculty to register their political views with the state.”
King’s tweet mirrored language used in a June 23, 2021 headline by Salon that was changed on Wednesday to read “DeSantis Signs Bill Demanding Investigation of Florida Students and Teachers About Their Political Views.” An editor’s note said the title had been revised “to more accurately reflect the language of the bill in question.”
King’s original headline and tweet are misleading because the investigation is voluntary, according to several legal experts who have reviewed the bill, including a University of Florida law professor. The bill requires the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors to create a survey to be administered annually by the Florida College System and the State University System that “considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and how free members of collegiate communities feel “to express their beliefs and viewpoints.”
Councils are required to publish the results each year, beginning September 1, but officials have not said what will be done with the results, the AP reported. The language included in communications to employees and students makes it clear that participation was not mandatory and that the survey was anonymous.
“Faculty, staff and students are not required to register their political beliefs with the state of Florida,” said Clay Calvert, a University of Florida law professor who specializes in communications and communications law. freedom of speech. “What’s true is that state universities must administer intellectual freedom and diversity of perspective surveys to students, faculty, and staff. So that’s where the disconnect lies. “
Republican Rep. Spencer Roach, who sponsored the bill at the Florida House, called recent interpretations calling it mandatory registration “factually inaccurate.” “That’s not what the wording of the law says,” Roach told the AP. He explained that the law states that the survey must be objective, non-partisan and statistically valid. “No one is requiring anyone on campus to declare their party affiliation,” Roach added.
When DeSantis signed the bill into law in June 2021, it didn’t include many details about the investigation. Many critics have expressed concern that it could be used as a way to withhold public funds from universities if the data suggests there is a perceived bias on campus, despite factors that could skew responses, a said Calvert.
The survey was sent to students and employees in state college and university systems, according to email communications reviewed by the AP. An email with the survey that was sent to professors at the University of Florida in April stated: “Your participation in this survey is completely voluntary. You are free not to answer any questions or withdraw from the survey at any time. All responses are anonymous. .”
An email sent to students at the University of Florida and other schools in the system used similar language. Still, a union representing faculty at Florida State universities discouraged members from taking it and argued that faculty members could be identified and targeted by certain issues, the AP reported.
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in New York contributed to this report.