Florida Senate Passes Bill Promoting ‘Intellectual Freedom And Viewpoint Diversity’ In Colleges

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A new bill protecting “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” in public colleges and universities in Florida was passed Wednesday by the Florida state Senate.

The House Bill 233 was passed on a 23-15 vote and has already been sent to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Tampa Bay Times reported. The legislation will require post-secondary educational institutions to survey students, faculty and staff about their political views and prohibit universities from limiting speech that “may be uncomfortable, disagreeable or offensive,” according to the document.

The bill mandates Florida College System’s institutions to conduct “annual assessments of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” which should determine the “extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the university community… feel free to express their beliefs,” the bill reads. (RELATED: The University Of Florida Suspends Multiple Conservative Groups For Allegedly Violating COVID-19 Rules)

The bill also bars higher educational institutions from “shielding” its students, faculty and staff “from free speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” and allows students to “record video or audio of class lectures” for a variety of purposes, including using the recorded material “as evidence in, or in preparation for, a criminal or civil proceeding.”

The critics of the bill argue that granting such rights to students may result in faculty members being punished for exercising their freedom of expression in class, according to Tampa Bay Times. Democrats also fear that the bill’s protection of “uncomfortable” speech may amplify the voices of groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Proud Boys, according to the report.

“I don’t think that it’s dangerous,” Republican state senator Ray Wesley Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, said in defense of the legislation. “Other states that have gone down this road have actually found it educational and beneficial. I think that it would be educational and beneficial in the state of Florida as well.”