Campus “intellectual freedom” bill teed up

by | Jan 20, 2021

 

A Senate panel next week will consider a controversial proposal that would require state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of  “intellectual  freedom and viewpoint diversity” at the institutions. The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday is slated to take up the bill (SB 264), filed by Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, for consideration during the 2021 legislative session.

Rodrigues, who was elected to the Senate in November, unsuccessfully tried to pass such a measure during the 2019 and 2020 sessions while he served in the House. Under the bill, the State Board of Education and the state university system’s Board of Governors would require state colleges and universities to conduct the annual assessments, using surveys that consider “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” said the portion of the bill involving state colleges.

Nearly identical wording is in the universities portion of the bill. Rodrigues has said in the past that it is important to know whether people feel free to “express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” But critics, in part, have raised questions about whether the results of the surveys could affect hiring practices at colleges and universities.

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