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TURES COLUMN: Florida’s demands for data on professors and students is un-American

This week, we’ve learned that the state of Florida is demanding that professors and students submit a series of responses to questions about their political beliefs, with the potential for a loss of funding, the potential to be blocked from promotion, and the chance to be fired, if such answers are not satisfactory to politicians, according to Brett Bachman with Salon.

“Public universities in Florida will be required to survey both faculty and students on their political beliefs and viewpoints, with the institutions at risk of losing their funding if the responses are not satisfactory to the state’s Republican-led legislature.”

As someone who sponsors talks for “Victims of Communism” and presents and publishes with the Cato Journal and the Association for Private Enterprise, and the Journal of Private Enterprise, I should theoretically be safe.  So why am I so upset?  Because this North Korean-style totalitarian-style politics is wrong, whether it targets liberals, moderates or conservatives.

“Public universities in Florida will be required to survey both faculty and students on their political beliefs and viewpoints, with the institutions at risk of losing their funding if the responses are not satisfactory to the state’s Republican-led legislature,” Bachman writes.  “Based on the bill’s language, survey responses will not necessarily be anonymous — sparking worries among many professors and other university staff that they may be targeted, held back in their careers or even fired for their beliefs.” 

And a study by the Tampa Bay Times of the bill’s language does not support the belief that professors would not be punished. The Times also cast doubt on the anonymity of the survey, who will get the data, and what they will get to do with it. Like Salon, they reported that the bill supporters did not offer concrete evidence of liberal bias.

I know that in my 20+ years of teaching, I have never been surveyed once about my political beliefs. I have never been in any room where anyone had to stand up for any ideology.

If you surveyed my graduates, you’ll find just as many conservatives as liberals, if not more conservatives. It’s because I teach about research methods, statistics, how to analyze data, how to construct an argument. They learn about ideologies, but they certainly aren’t told which ideology is the “correct” one. I doubt many of my colleagues do that.

But I don’t think that’s the goal of the survey. It’s more about “scoring” political points. It’s about having politics dictate the ideology, with the power of money, hiring and firing. It would be just as wrong as if the state of Oregon passed something similar to oust conservatives from higher education, wouldn’t it? Of course, it would be.

That’s perhaps just what those hopped up on political propaganda want: a “two-state” solution where North and South are divided into separate camps. Those adhering to such false arguments online are not particularly adept at determining whose fingerprints are really all over them, whether they are ex-KGB’s Putin’s Russia, or Communist China, both of which have flooded America’s online world with divisive material designed to promote in-fighting in the USA.

It’s clear from any reading of the Founding Fathers and what they stood for that they opposed such “ideological conformity,” especially when it claims to support “ideological diversity.”  Let’s reject these political power grabs, and pray Floridians hold their elected officials responsible for this awful legislation that could gut America’s colleges and universities. And Bachman reports that a lobbyist for the bill wants to expand it to the K-12 system as well, which could further darken the rest of education in America as well.