Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has been rhetorically hit — albeit indirectly — with a federal lawsuit over a bill that he recently signed into law requiring annual surveys of students’ beliefs at public colleges and universities in the state. The surveys seem like a rather blatant intimidation tactic. The new law, which has already taken effect, suggests that something like thought police are gearing up to get deployed against Florida college students and the schools where they learn. Now, the new lawsuit against the required surveys claims that the law violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which include protections for free speech and free association, respectively.
🚨NEW: Florida college students and professors SUE Florida over #HB233, a law requiring higher education institutions to conduct annual surveys on the political views of students and faculty. The lawsuit claims the law violates the 1st & 14th Amendments.https://t.co/EpugBg0cd4
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) July 2, 2021
The law itself does not include specifications regarding potential consequences for Florida public colleges and universities in the event of a conclusion by the DeSantis administration that they’re not intellectually diverse enough, but the governor himself has already spoken of potentially cutting funding from schools. DeSantis ranted that authorities don’t want schools to function “as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” adding: “That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward.” No matter what’s in the bill, those comments sound rather unequivocal, so there’s an apparent real danger here of schools losing funding if DeSantis’s preferred ideology isn’t as prevalent as he’d like to see. It’s bonkers that such a scenario is even a possibility.
Republicans, at least those involved in the enactment of this new law, have turned to targeting the very holding of opinions contrary to their own. The new lawsuit names the Florida Commissioner of Education and members of the Florida Board of Governors, who oversee public colleges and universities, as defendants. In the case, “plaintiffs argue that the structure, history and statements around the survey provisions suggest that these surveys will require students and faculty to disclose their personal political beliefs,” as the voting rights/ pro-democracy organization Democracy Docket explains. The lawsuit also targets a provision of the law that bans school faculty from “shielding” students from particular points of view.
It’s remarkable that Republican leaders apparently think so lowly of college students that they imagine them as intellectually susceptible to indoctrination with few if any exceptions, as though it’s not the year 2021, when a world of information is available to just about anyone with a few clicks. In other words, yet again apparent discrimination and mind-numbing ignorance are proceeding hand-in-hand. DeSantis and his allies are launching a barely veiled crusade against viewpoints they don’t like, while proving remarkably out-of-touch with the way that college and a lot else actually work.