This chilling abuse of power comes as many GOP politicians continue to push for conservative ideology in schools. Governor DeSantis and other conservatives have long promoted the idea that higher education has a progressive agenda.
HB 223 maintains that schools must “conduct an annual survey measuring ‘intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity’ on their campuses. It’s an effort to gauge ‘the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented,’ as well as how free students, faculty and staff feel ‘to express their beliefs and viewpoints,’” according to the bill.
This would not be the first time educators risk punishment for their political views. From the 1960s, when Black professors were fired for supporting civil rights continuing through today, when Essex County College fired professor Lisa Durden for supporting Black Lives Matter.
Former Professor Durden is now suing the school for violating her civil rights.
The backlash against Governor DeSantis and HB 223 has been swift and loud. Calling the bill one that addresses several “non-existent issues,” Josh Weierbach, the executive director of Florida Watch, a progressive organization, noted that the bill is “targeting our public universities with partisan attacks.”
HB 223 was signed on June 22, and is set to go into practice on July 1, just weeks before colleges’ fall semester is set to begin. The bill was part of a group of three education bills that addressed “patriotism” in schools, as well as required “civics education” for college that compared political ideologies against American capitalism and representative democracy.
HB 223, which is likely to be challenged in court, is also a political move for Governor DeSantis, who is testing the waters to run for President again in 2024. According to Progress Florida, “It’s unfortunate our governor continues to manufacture fake controversies designed to distract Floridians from his abysmal record of raising taxes and manufacturing culture war controversies.”