Friday, August 12, 2022

Union urges Florida faculty to ignore controversial survey

A union representing faculty at Florida’s state universities is discouraging members from participating in a survey aimed at understanding the political leanings of students and staff and the political climate on their campuses.

The measure passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law last year by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requires public universities to conduct an annual assessment of freedom of attitude and expression on campuses. The Board of Governors and State Board of Education have to compile and publish the results.

The resolution also mandates that students be exposed to different political viewpoints and not “shielded” from those arguments. Supporters of the law accused universities of drowning out conservative student voices.

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A federal judge last week denied an emergency request to stop the survey, though opponents can still file an appeal.

In a letter to its members, the United Faculty of Florida urged faculty, staff, and students to ignore the survey, saying it would create a calming effect on free speech and freedom of association on campuses.

“The government of Florida has no right to know the views, feelings, or political or religious beliefs of anyone, including the higher education community,” the letter said. “Privacy is the cornerstone of democracy and a safeguard against autocratic control.”

The union says the surveys are supposed to be anonymous, but faculty members can be identified and targeted through questions about their demographic background and where they work.

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