Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is being accused of turning his state into an Orwellian hellhole after he signed new legislation that will mandate that all public universities and colleges in Florida survey their students, faculty, and staff about their political and racial beliefs to determine whether there is enough “intellectual diversity” being fostered.
The survey that the bill requires is designed to measure “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in public universities and colleges and attempts to determine whether students, faculty, and staff “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” according to the text of the bill.
While the bill that DeSantis signed doesn’t give specifics as to how the date the survey gathers will be used, the governor and the bill’s sponsor, GOP state Senator Ray Rodrigues, intimated that the results could lead to budget cuts to schools if they are determined to be “indoctrinating” their students.
“That’s not worth tax dollars and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” DeSantis threatened during about the bill at a press conference at a middle school in Fort Myers.
Saying that the purpose of the bill is to prevent public universities and colleges from becoming “hotbeds for stale ideology,” DeSantis lamented what he sees as the loss of intellectual diversity in Florida’s institutions of higher education.
“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” the Florida governor said. “Unfortunately, now the norm is, these are more intellectually repressive environments. You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed.”
Critics of the new legislation fear that it is an attempt at state thought control and a dangerous infringement of their own free speech rights in the guise of protecting conservative viewpoints. In their eyes, the survey is a stalking horse for the regulation of on-campus speech by self-interested politicians who don’t want anyone saying anything that counters their right-wing ideology.
For his part, Governor DeSantis couldn’t cite any specific incidents to back up his accusations of anti-American indoctrination at the state’s universities and colleges, instead, he relied on vague, Trumpian generalities to justify the necessity of the bill, saying that he “knows a lot of parents” who are concerned that their children will be “indoctrinated” when they leave for college and that universities are injecting their student’s brains with “orthodoxies.”
University administrators were mostly silent about the new bill, likely fearing the threat of budget cuts that DeSantis wielded like a cudgel against them.
The University of Florida in Gainesville did issue a defensive statement that painted the university as a “marketplace of ideas where a wide variety of opinions are expressed and independent inquiry and vigorous academic deliberation are valued.” They said that they think that any survey will confirm the intellectual diversity at their school.
“We believe the survey will reflect that, and we look forward to widespread participation across campus,” the statement said.
Given that the survey is a politically motivated solution in search of a problem, it is likely that the entire legislative exercise is merely a reflexive response to the wave of right-wing propaganda surrounding “critical race theory,” the latest in a series of conservative bogeymen designed to motivate voters to chose Republican candidates out of irrational fears over their invented controversies.
This latest legislation that Governor DeSantis has signed is only the latest indication that the GOP is the party of creeping fascism in the guise of law and order and free speech protection.
Today, an ideology survey, tomorrow, pink triangles and yellow Stars of David.
Dangers like this bill are the reason that the Republican Party needs to be swept out of office not just at the federal level, but in the state governments as well.
Original reporting by Ana Ceballos at The Tampa Bay Times.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.