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- The law requires an annual assessment of “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at public colleges and universities.
- The bill does not address what questions will be asked, whether participation is mandatory, or if the responses will be anonymous.
- The survey hasn’t been created yet but a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education said it will be voluntary and won’t ask about individuals’ political beliefs. Instead, it will ask whether individuals “feel they can express their political viewpoints and opinions in their college classrooms.”
Among the buzz that followed was a claim warning that students and employees of these schools would have to report their political leanings to the government.
"Dictator alert," begins a screenshot of a tweet being shared on social media. "Ron DeathSantis just signed legislation requiring students, faculty and staff at Florida’s public universities and colleges to register their political views with the state."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The Twitter account making the claim echoed a June 23 article on Raw Story, which it also shared in a Twitter thread that followed the claim. The headline says: "Florida students required to register political views with the state to promote ‘intellectual diversity’."
That story is about HB 233, specifically the requirement in the bill that the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors must "select or create an objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid survey to be used by each institution which considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community, including students, faculty, and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom."
Education authorities must require the annual assessment from state colleges and universities, according to the bill.
Spokespeople for the Board of Governors and the Florida Department of Education told PolitiFact that the survey has not yet been developed. The bill does not address what questions will be asked, whether student and faculty participation in the survey is mandatory, or if the responses will be anonymous.
Cheryl Etters, interim communications director for the education department, said the surveys will be voluntary and won’t ask about individuals’ political beliefs.
"It’s merely going to ask whether they feel they can express their political viewpoints and opinions in their college classrooms," Etters said. "The idea is to get at ‘Do they feel safe expressing their own viewpoint in college?’"
No one will be required to register their political views with the state, she said.
Jason Mahon, deputy communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis, told us that the survey would "need a valid sample, but there is not an expectation that every Florida student or professor would even need to participate."
The legislation also does not require "knowing the identity of the respondent," he said.
Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the Republican who sponsored the bill, pointed PolitiFact to similar surveys at the University of Colorado and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that he said inspired the Florida legislation.
The Colorado survey asked respondents about their political affiliation and political philosophy, and the North Carolina survey asked respondents about their political leanings. Both universities said the results were anonymous. North Carolina also encouraged students to take the survey with a $10 gift card.
Critics of Florida’s new law, which goes into effect on July 1, continue to voice fears about how it will be implemented, including the concern that it would have a chilling effect on free speech. A researcher for the Florida Education Association told the Miami Herald in April that she worried it would "force a fearful self-consciousness that is not as much about learning and debate as about appearances and playing into an outside audience."
The Tampa Bay Times reported that, speaking about the survey, DeSantis and Rodrigues "suggested that budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be ‘indoctrinating’ students."
DeSantis recently signed legislation requiring public colleges and universities to survey "intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity" to gauge in part how comfortable students, faculty and staff feel sharing their beliefs in classrooms.
The survey hasn’t been created yet, so we don’t know what it will ask students, faculty and staff at these institutions. But a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education told us it will be voluntary and won’t ask about individuals’ political beliefs, though surveys in other states that lawmakers have cited as inspiration for the bill do.
But, as written, the law doesn’t require public college and university students, faculty and staff to register their political views with the state.
We rate the post False.
Facebook post, June 23, 2021
Tweet, June 23, 2021
HB 233, signed June 23, 2021
Tampa Bay Times, State university faculty, students to be surveyed on beliefs, June 23, 2021
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report on free expression and constructive dialogue, March 2, 2020
University of Colorado memo on regent climate survey, Aug. 20, 2018
Email interview with Joni Branch, PR and communications specialist, Florida Education Association, June 24, 2021
Interview with Cheryl Etters, interim director of communications, Florida Department of Education, June 24, 2021
Interview with Jason Mahon, deputy communications director, Gov. Ron DeSantis, June 24, 2021
Email interview with Renee’ Fargason, strategic communications and advocacy director, State University System of Florida Board of Governors, June 24, 2021
Email interview with Sen. Ray Rodrigues, June 24, 2021
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