In April, the Florida legislature introduced a bill that would measure how well competing political ideas and perspectives are presented in public university classrooms. After passing both the House and Senate along party lines, it now awaits Governor Ron DeSantis’ signature. While this bill is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction in the fight against liberal bias on campus.
The point of the bill is to ensure that all political viewpoints are fairly represented in classrooms. The bill allows students to record professors’ lectures to use as proof of political bias. It also mandates that The Florida Board of Governors conduct a survey each year asking students and faculty at the state’s public universities if they feel comfortable expressing their own viewpoints on campus, the results of which would be published annually.
This bill is well-intentioned. Liberal bias on college campuses is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, this bill also has the ability to backfire against conservatives. If conservative students are allowed and encouraged to use recorded lectures to bring disciplinary action against liberally-biased professors, then liberal students will almost certainly try to do the same thing. While being able to weaponize recordings isn’t necessarily the best way to go about fighting campus bias, the bill does mandate that recordings are not allowed to be published publicly without the consent of the professor.
Another issue that could arise is that professors may try to discourage discussion of different viewpoints in classrooms altogether. If they are worried that a student who disagrees with whatever viewpoint they bring up will report them for bias, it might seem less risky for them to completely avoid these topics.
Of course, this is not the bill’s intention. The bill’s creator, Florida state Rep. Spencer Roach, says that it is supposed to be a “protection of intellectual diversity.” It’s intention is to protect the ability of all political opinions to be protected in the classroom. So while it is possible that the bill could disincentivize debate, the need to push back against increasing liberal bias outweighs the risks posed.
The bill makes an effort to try and protect the freedom of students to express their own ideas. One of the better provisions included does just that. It forbids the shielding of “students, faculty, and staff at state universities from free speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Democrat lawmakers opposed to this bill argue that this provision is paving the way for dangerous, right-wing ideologies to infiltrate the classroom and corrupt the young, impressionable minds of students.
The president of the United Faculty of Florida teacher’s union, Dr. Karen Morian, insinuated that this provision will lead to racist actions saying that if it was implemented at school’s like “FAMU and [white supremacists] think they think they’re going to be able to intimidate black college students, they will come.”
This is completely ridiculous. Sharing right-wing viewpoints in the classroom is not going to lead to increased racism. Instead, it might actually expose students to ideas that they had previously never considered. Universities should not be shielding their students from ideas that they don’t like. When classroom discussions on political or social topics arise, opinions from both sides should be able to be shared, instead of professors pushing their own views on students.
Students need to be free to make up their own minds. They are perfectly capable of examining an issue and coming to their own conclusion. Florida’s plan isn’t perfect. But they should be commended for trying to protect the right of college students to form their own opinions.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.